A tale of two ex-lovers reminiscing about days past may emit the slight eggy whiff of cliché, but this is certainly not the case with upcoming playwright Jenna May Hobbs’s Captured, a truly beautiful revitalisation of the genre. Delightfully sweet, remarkably intense and incredibly emotional, director Suzanna Ward takes you on an emotional rollercoaster and shoots straight for the heart, in the première of White Slate Theatre’s original production.
The story takes place in a dingy basement flat by the seaside, where autonomous Nurse Sophie (Francisca Stangel) is listening to catchy indie rock music and pulling some mad shapes on the living room floor after a long day’s work. Her dancing is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of gloriously bearded ex-lover Isaac (Isambard Rawbone) – a charming yet somewhat emotionally stunted photographer who, unlike Sophie, cares only for the perception of the images that he takes, rather than the reality of his subjects themselves. This puts him at odds with Sophie, his muse and a past subject of his herself. Cue butts on the end of seats as we follow the two characters, reliving their time together as both colleagues and lovers, as photographer and subject, and as image and reality. We are voyeurs to the love that reignites between them once more, and to the fundamental differences that relinquish it.
Hobbs’s script is brought to life by a pair of exceptionally adept actors. Rawbone brings warmth and cheeriness to Isaac’s character: his cheekily casual condescension of Sophie and her way of living, and rather ‘tofty’ mannerisms, earn well-deserved chuckles from the audience, adding the much-needed light-heartedness to an otherwise quite serious script. Stangel is intense as Sophie, carrying the heavy emotional baggage of an aggrieved woman upon strong shoulders. She is the heart of the performance, watering the eyes of many with the poignancy of her existence. The love is clear between the two right from the start, from the cute awkward reintroductions to the passionate smooching at the end, making the climax all the more shocking and unexpected.
Though script, direction and performance are greatly commendable in their own rights, the play is strengthened tenfold by the accompaniment of the lighting and music, which is truly a spectacle to behold. The tone of the performance is immediately set before the characters have even placed a foot on stage, with mystic blue lighting gliding lazily across the walls and the soothing ambient soundtrack sending forth a wave of beautiful chillness, adding an air of strange intensity that prepares you for what is to come. A well-deserved hats off to lighting designer Beth Hitchcock and Jonathan Grosberg for the original composition.
A shining example of upcoming young artistic talent within the theatre, and a must-see for any fringe theatre lover for sure.
Captured played from 9 – 10 January at the Aphra Studio Theatre, Canterbury. For more information, see the White Slate Theatre website. The project was supported by Farnham Maltings’s no strings attached scheme – more details can be found here. Image by Aenne Pallasca.