Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: 'Attic' at the King's Head Theatre, 26th June 2017

Attic reviewed by David James

Rating: 2 Stars

As someone who's been in too many relationships with bonkers women, Meriel Hinsching's Attic contained many familiar moments. This 45-minute long miniplay bills itself as examining a "dangerous, boundary-pushing relationship" and "the dark, animalistic and unconventional sides to love". 

Our not-so-starcrossed lovers are Leonie (Phoebe Stapleton) and Bay (Connor Harris) (a confession: throughout the play I thought Leonie was calling him 'bae'). Bay seems like a pretty straightforward kind of guy: he's processing the death of his sister and seeking some kind of intimacy. We encounter the pair post break-up and, though Bay has a new girlfriend, the flame still burns between them.  

Bay is a fairly understandable but Leonie is trickier to diagnose. She's an overly aggressive conversationalist, physically stand-offish and prone to rambling monologues and melodramatic suicide threats. She appears to be written as a rare and unique person who sees the world through a strict anti-bullshit filter. 

That's the intention. But, to be frank, she's basically 'yer textbook asshole.

Leonie is impossible to sympathise with, and over the play's 45 minutes Bay's continuing involvement with her goes from perplexing to outright surreal. I wouldn't exactly say the play glamorises an abusive relationship, but it certainly approaches it with weird romanticism. At first, this sour note is intriguing: where is Hinsching going with this strange set-up? But, by the time the curtain falls, it feels flimsy in an icky sort of way.

Much of this is down to the power imbalance between Bay and Leonie. If they were as fucked up as each another then fine: there are worse ways to spend an evening than watching two horrible people spiralling life's plughole. But the fact that Bay seems like a pretty normal kind of guy (and a somewhat vulnerable one at that) creates a weird disconnect. 

But bubbling away under all that is that Stapleton and Harris simply don't have the romantic chemistry to make this work. If there really was some spark between them they could harness that and blast through the other deficiencies, but they seem less like lovers drawn to one another like moths to a flame and more like two strangers tolerating one another.

Attic ends up a baffling and unfocused play. I never for a moment felt like Leonie and Bay's relationship was pushing any boundaries or was particularly unconventional. Instead, you get a clumsy relationship drama between two uninteresting characters that doesn't go anywhere interesting or have much to say. It's nowhere near the worst thing I've ever seen, and at least it's mercifully short, but there's precious little here to recommend.

Attic is at the King's Head on the 2nd and 3rd of July. More information here.

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