Heartbreak

Wed 24th – Thu 25th August 2011

reviews

Alexandra Sayers

at 12:15 on 26th Aug 2011

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Having a vague description in the Fringe Magazine, I entered into ‘Heartbreak’ assuming it would be a dramatic re-enactment of a break-up, or some such piece that warranted this romantically engaged title. That it might be something more sinister reached my attention in the first freeze-frame: a girl, dressed in a white leotard construction with a tutu-ed waist, lying lifeless on a wooden block, with another girl - this time all red laced and showy chest - huddling over her. Above them hangs an upside down, slightly-off-centre paper heart. This first image seems to promise original, raw, provocative drama, and the beginning monologues continue this hope. But when it becomes clear that the play will comprise solely of these monologues, very occasionally crossing over into conversation between the two characters, hope dwindles and fizzles out. It’s a pity, because if the play had been shorter and snappier, and the monologues more cut-into and fragmented, the quick fire exchange between the two characters would have made gripping watching for the audience and a steady progression of tension could have been built to ensure an effectively reached climax. Instead, the story progresses at a sluggish pace until finally hitting extremes when the romantic relationship between Yasmin and Gloria becomes seethed with tension, strains, paranoia, and brutal violence; seemingly all at once. The acting switches from gentle reminisces to destructive outbursts all too quickly, and although at first Alex Diaper’s distress is convincing, after a while of the same actions it becomes rather repetitive. Similarly Hannah Khan’s paranoia reaches an impressive pitch, but then plateaus and stays a little too long in this stage.

The play hinges entirely on a shocking revelation at the very end of the show - so shocking that its aim is surely to make the audience re-evaluate everything that they have hitherto thought about the relationship. Yet this revved-up climax comes far too late, and it is too much out of the blue to seem at all believable. Instead, the show gives a disconcertingly misleading message right up until this ending scene, seemingly professing that lesbianism is un-natural, or, as Gloria sums up: ‘sin, ignorance, stupidity’. It is only through the ending that this is subverted into something else entirely. In this subversion, the play teeters on the edge of a Sarah Kane-esque moral evaluation of the audience, with potential to offer a cruel challenge to the audience’s pre-suppositions and the boundaries of their social acceptance. Yet it never quite gets there: challenges to morality are never opened up; the play remains two-dimensional; we are told the scenarios rather than being given the space to think on them. It seems that playwright Montague Kimball-Evans has chosen the ending because of its undeniably shocking connotations, rather than because of the potential that could be made out of it through dramatic interpretation.

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Imogen O'Sullivan

at 18:00 on 26th Aug 2011

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Although the primary impression made by the piece’s title, description and paper-and-string set made me initially sceptical, the opening of Heartbreak appeared to assuage my fears. The original focus on the emotive power of scent being the hardest thing for the mind to forget was a fascinating concept and I was looking forward to an innovative and thought-provoking piece on the nature of love and loss. Unfortunately what I was delivered was a clichéd, uncomfortable and unrealistic depiction of a self-confessed ‘taboo’ relationship – what exactly the ‘taboo’ was, I am still unsure.

The combination of retrospective monologues and flashback scenes had a lot of promise, and if the intention was to explore the potential sense of shame occasionally felt by lesbians who believe themselves to be outcasts in modern society, it was an admirable one. However, the difficult topic tackled was not aided by an appallingly false sounding script that, on occasion, made me physically cringe. This uncomfortable feeling was not a product of well-concealed prejudice I never knew I had, I would have cringed if the script had been performed by two heterosexuals. It was not the subject matter I found hard to stomach but the abundance of obvious clichés and unnecessarily erotic sections that make me think the company’s intent was more to shock than to educate.

Alex Diaper’s Gloria showed flashes of humour in her mostly unamusing cynicism but everything she said seemed unnatural, as if she didn’t believe a word of it. As a study of a young woman confused and ashamed of her sexuality, her performance could have been powerful and provocative but was instead awkward and contrived, failing to ring true at any point. Hannah Khan’s Yasmine was a beautiful character depiction; nervous, naive and delusional, which at times made her appear like a victim in her relationship, begging for attention and desperately grateful for anything she can receive from the woman she hero-worships.

Khan screams that her love is ‘no taboo’, and if this comment is aimed at lesbianism, she’s more right that this piece implies. However, the confusing conclusion to the performance manages to imply that these two lovers are sisters. I am still unsure if this was the intent, but if it was, it seems like more pointless shock tactics rather than a message with any real relevance, and if this wasn’t the intent, the company should be aware that a number of audience members left believing it was. Even if this was a comment on homosexuality and the innate feelings of shock and sin associated with those who are not ‘gay and proud’, it is still uncomfortably weak in its script. It is a piece more preoccupied with shocking an audience and screaming that ‘nobody understands’ than actually having anything significant to say.

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