I don’t know if it’s because I’m not a twenty-something in a rocky relationship, or because I’m just not the right type of person, but I couldn’t feel any genuine connection to Hedgehogs and Porcupines at the Old Red Lion. To me, the whole thing feels a little contrived and drawn out where it would have been better left alone. For starters, the story seems so familiar that I think I’ve probably seen a couple of dozen plays following the same outline: a stressy, slightly uptight girl tries to contend with an overly laid back and compulsive boy. For all their mutual difficulties (and despite being utterly and totally different from one another), they appear to have decided that they are in love, and my God will they stick to that. Of course, this isn’t inherently bad, it’s just tired.
Essentially, James P Mannion’s script is well constructed and sweet in places, but to me, doesn’t feel like very much else. It quickly falls into a cycle of fighting, threatened breakups and reconciliations. While this is obviously intentional, it still feels like it doesn’t go anywhere. Additionally, the eventual sentiment – that maybe constant fighting is just a part of a ‘really loving relationship’, and that actually this is what true happiness looks like – is jarring, to the extent that it feels forced. To me, this appears unnatural. Two characters sitting, agreeing that it would be disgusting to look happy just becomes depressing. It doesn’t really sit right with anything that has already happened, and feels like something closer to a surrender than a victory.
The costume design doesn’t really work for me either. The symbolic relevance of spiky porcupine/ hedgehog jackets which gave them both a sort of physical buffer works in theory, but in practice it becomes somewhat distracting, drawing more focus away from a script that wasn’t doing too much heavy lifting to begin with. It also doesn’t add anything that the audience couldn’t figure out. The play is very focused on the layers of unintentional harm that these two people cause each other, and being dressed as the animals at the heart of Schopenhauer’s famous paradox felt a bit like overkill. It isn’t a bad play, but it has a definite note of unoriginality, and within that a sense of defeatism.
Hedgehogs and Porcupines is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until October 6th. For more information and tickets, see here.