Twins Polo (Timothy Renouf) and Twitch (Katrina Allen) are celebrating their 25th birthday. Born with only one heart between them, the twins are something of an unexplained medical miracle, and with Twitch possessing most of said heart, she is full of love, while Polo is completely devoid of it. Along with friends like Jacks (Natalia Titcomb) and various love interests ending with Billy (Gareth Balai), Hot Mess follows them on a night out on their birthday, and tells the story of their relationship with one another, their contrasting lives, and how they differ from each another – taking their major physiological and psychological difference into account.
Written by Ella Hickson, who brought us Oil and Eight, Hot Mess lives up to its name. Katrina Allen is slightly scary but precise and romantic as the endearingly obsessive Twitch, while Natalia Titcomb is loud and obnoxious as sexually promiscuous party-girl Jacks, and I couldn’t make out if I found her quite refreshing or just wholly unlikeable. Timothy Renouf is considerably quieter and much subtler than the rest of the cast, and seems to deliver would-be punchy lines with far less zeal – but perhaps this is a creative decision as he is supposed to, literally, have less heart and soul than your average 25-year-old.
While the writing had some lovely quaint, romantic observations regarding other people and everyday life, it was mostly a little bizarre. There is a horrid scene in which Jacks and Polo, in a nightclub, break the fourth wall and use the men of the audience as sort of cast members, pointing and laughing at them hysterically, accusing them of not being able to take their eyes off Jacks scantily clad body – and I can’t see what purpose the scene served other than to involve and slightly embarrass the audience.
While it is possible to see what Hot Mess is aiming for, I’m not sure it fully gets there. There are strange, very dark moments of an almost supernatural nature which aren’t presented with much clarity, and Twitch’s never-ending capacity to ‘love’ didn’t seem to stretch to her twin brother, who apparently disappeared for a year with little to no reaction from Twitch upon his return.
The play also seems to only concentrate on romantic or sexual love, rather than familial, despite acknowledging that a sibling relationship is ‘the longest you’ll ever have in your life’. A mixed bag, Hot Mess, is funny and contemporary in places, but still feels a little unrefined.
Hot Mess played at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe.