Karen meets Nick at a train station. Jamie meets Naomi on a dating app. Feel follows these four characters as they try and fail to connect with each other. And although the actors present fleshed out characters in Proforça’s production, the writing can’t quite deliver a message that can resonate or feels fresh.
Nick (James Vincent) is a writer; after publishing his first book, he seems to have lost his mojo. When Karen (Gemma Wray) starts chatting to him on the platform (something that is considered quite unusual in London), it takes time for him to come out of his shell. However, the chirpy and hilarious Karen manages to connect with him and the two start a routine: they arrive with their coffees, get frustrated with the delayed train and continue their conversations where they left off. On one occasion they end up drunk and in Karen’s bed, and for a moment a potential relationship starts to form, but due to Nick’s heart condition the two never end up together. It is a sweet story with a sad ending, ultimately telling us to write our own stories and go after the things we want in life before it is too late.
On the other side of the stage we see Jamie and Naomi, a fairly dysfunctional pair, who started as a hook-up, but because neither of them had a condom they must settle for talking in bed all night. One might wonder why doesn’t one of them pop down to the closest corner shop, but that would probably cut their story short. What follows instead is a series of nights with Naomi staying in Jamie’s bed, uninvited. Neither of them can pinpoint what they are to each other, but they both have a need to talk to someone, leading them to live together for a while and opening up to each other. Unfortunately, most scenes in this storyline seem very similar to each other, and so we never really learn about Jamie or Naomi, other than the facts that the former feels lonely and empty most of the time, and the latter is unreliable and has commitment issues. Sadly I felt that these two characters, although portrayed with full commitment by Nick Cope and Isobel Eadie, felt a tad one-dimensional.
The King’s Head Theatre’s stage is utilised economically – occasionally an actor wants to travel on a line but has no room to do so, but if anything the lack of space makes you really focus on the performers. The piece certainly picks up the pace in the second half, but still feels occasionally slow. This might be due to the transition that felt the same throughout, making the play a little monotonous.
Overall the production is an exploration of human connections in a city that is always in motion and leaves very little room for deep, meaningful encounters. And although the piece might feel repetitious at some points, the cast does a great job at presenting wonderfully flawed humans.
Feel played at the King’s Head Theatre until 18 June 2018
Photo: Proforca Theatre Company