From the title alone, it’s difficult to know what to expect from this performance. However, Sebastian Gardner’s debut play delivers heaps of hilariously authentic peaks within a rocky relationship, including the undeniable reality of what can be shared in the heat of a moment.
This two-handed piece shows the space of private school educated, young professional Ollie (Sebastian Gardner) and his strong-minded, working-class girlfriend Laura (Anouche-Alana Chokarian). As a pink, ‘Marry Me?’ balloon floats centre stage at the beginning of the piece, we are dragged into the impression that this is a love story between the pair. And it is to some extent. But Gardner’s rapid scramble to then hide his planted confession, paired with Chokarian’s raging one liners, twists this fairy tale into the complicated reality of a relationship.
Their flaming row over a family lunch is littered with outrageously cutting insults that can only call for uncontrollable laughter. Within this warfare, we can see glimpses of their previous life. Pet peeves, lingering memories and inside jokes that beautifully throw us into the world of these two seemingly opposed people. Behind their differences lies an entertaining, competitive nature to outdo each other.
These fragments of conversation reflect into the second half of the performance as we see the couple’s first night together. Their sweet innocence is a refreshing reminder of their initial affections in contrast to their previous conflict, as they tip-toe around getting to know one another. Nevertheless, this is equally lathered with awkwardly nervous and genius comedy, allowing us to analyse the changes that love can make in a relationship, good and bad.
Gardner’s writing is possibly one of the most promising additions to theatre that I have seen in a long time. With a well-developed structure of repeated themes, tones and staging, there are also floods of current references, clear dialects and character understanding that elevates each line to a complete knockout of emotions. Moreover, Gardner’s attention to politics, class, sex, race and privilege present themselves as the significant building blocks of behaviour and conflict that bleed into our everyday lives. His witty, original address of such powerful topics brings hope to a new generation of theatre-makers.
The set design, perfected by Blythe Bailey, shows the simple space of a recognisably swanky London flat. The staple sofa, side lamp and coffee machine construct the living space into a fixated playground for these characters. Although the space does not change, this is a great asset to the confined walls that encases this couple’s lives, and we are only left to imagine what else has happened within that living room.
Gardner and Chokarian’s performances are electric, with energy and connection pouring out of every witty shot they take. They command the stage with such conviction and care that can only be labelled as the mark of two brilliant actors. Each laugh was as genuine as the next, and each loving look cut through me to the point where my cheeks ache from smiling.
I Lost My Virginity To Chopin’s Nocturne In B-Flat Minor is on a regional tour in Autumn 2021. For more information and tickets, see Paper Mug Theatre’s website.