Ah, middle-age – you bitter old bore, you scrapbook of regrets, you mother lode of responsibilities – what a depressing night at the theatre you make. These short plays, imports from the Cambridge Hotbed festival, all show the psychology of aging and they’re insightful, but the inevitability of insomnia and impotence makes the evening – well – a bit of a downer.
Steve Waters’s two-hander ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ charts a relationship as excited optimism deflates into an inescapable routine. Proposals, houses and births give way to affairs, divorce and days out with daddy.
Why is this cycle so all-pervasive? In short: men. Our sentimentality, our egocentricity, our sexual appetites – these are the speed bumps. Waters puts women on a pedestal; ever-righteous; always reasonable. It’s very self-flagellating.
Waters suggests that men grow increasingly protective and right-wing with age and there’s a canny pairing with the inevitability of war. Odd though that he should put so much faith in the institution of marriage. Paul Bourne’s production, which uses random props as life’s flotsam, feels strangely dated thanks to its plinky-plonk soundtrack and over-egged performances from Jasmine Hyde and Mark Oosterveen.
Both are much better in their solo shorts. In Craig Baxter’s ‘Somniloquy’, Hyde plays a troubled insomniac undergoing tests. In a real-life version of Beckett’s ‘Not I’, she drifts in and out of sleep, via REM, and splurges a surreal stream of subconsciousness. Eerily beautiful and oddly poetic, it makes sleep seem both traumatic and beneficial.
Meanwhile, Hisham Matar’s ‘How To Begin’ is less clear. Oostervan plays a divorcee struggling to make sense of his life to date, so he can move on. Such is his headspin, however, it’s just as hard for us to make sense of the story.
By Matt Trueman