After a tragic fire burns down their home, Gemma and Ariel are left homeless. Thankfully, Al is in the right place at the right time to offer them a saving grace…to his wife, Louise’s, chagrin. Cooped up in their flat, Louise makes no effort to hide her displeasure – both at the two extra occupants’ presence and her stale marriage. It’s an interesting premise and I really want to like it. But, alas, it falls short for me.
Now, it is worth mentioning that I don’t think I was the target audience for this show. There are lots of laughs from my fellow audience members and a culmination of loud cheers at the end of the show. So, I can definitely admit that the humour is perhaps lost on me.
Here’s why: the humour seems to come from the fact that Al and Louise hate each other, which is a cornerstone of couples’ comedy for the straight and monogamous. Being neither straight nor monogamous, I fail to find the tension darkly comic. Instead, it weighs on me like an uncomfortable rack of dumbbells, and I find it difficult to see the point. There doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the two, which I imagine is supposed to be tragic. But it also doesn’t seem as though there has ever been a relationship between them. I can’t see the hints of a flame that has been extinguished, or a pining for what used to be. It just feels like two people who were forced to live together for the sake of drama.
Polly Waldron’s Louise is entirely unlikable from start to finish, which is somewhat of a triumph for Waldron. It is no easy feat to portray a character with no redeemable qualities without coming off as a complete caricature. Though Louise is not at all enjoyable as a character, Waldron makes her watchable. Aoife Boyle’s Gemma becomes equally as prickly. As the show begins, I feel empathetic towards her and her situation, but as soon as she really starts to talk and interact with the other characters, this empathy melts away.
Juliette Finn rounds out the cast as an adorable Ariel – sweet and precocious, but not always recognisable as the 12-year-old she is meant to be. The female characters are implausible; the acting is solid – Waldron, Boyle and Finn do the best they can with what they’re given – but the characters (and many of the decisions they make) often seem entirely nonsensical. Al seems far more realistic and Cameron Corcoran brings balance as the tortured wannabe saviour. Al’s character has more depth than the women in the show and when I find out that Corcoran is also the writer, this makes sense. I wish some of this complexity was shared amongst the other characters.
On top of this, there is so much genuine hatred in this show. Ariel hates Gemma. Gemma hates Louise. Louise hates Al. Al hates Louise. Al hates Gemma. The intensity of the hatred never lets up, and rather than creating tension, it makes me feel like I’ve been dumped in the middle of a rushed soap opera. It is a difficult watch for me. I leave the theatre still unsure what the point was. It doesn’t feel like Corcoran knows exactly what he wants the show to say and because of this, it doesn’t commit. The foundation for a tense, gritty drama is here but it feels like Corcoran is potentially biting off more than he can chew for the running time of the piece. The show needs some space to breathe.
Fault Lines is playing the White Bear until 18 September 2021. For more information and to book tickets, visit The White Bear’s Website.