Rose (Sue Wylie), a retired actress and now drama teacher, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and Kinetics follows her struggle as she is determined to fight the disease and defeat it. On the other side is Lukas (Roly Botha), a student with ADHD. School bores him, so he uses all his energy to run and jump around buildings. One night during his parkour sessions he falls off of a rooftop, and this is how he meets Rose. The two of them become good friends, bonding over the need to move. As Rose is slowly getting used to her new condition, Lukas needs to find a way to focus on his studies while dealing with the sudden news of his mother’s illness. Through a series of monologues and some staged parkour Kinetics tells a story about struggle.
Based on her own story, Wylie writes a script that flows well on stage, and the audience laughs whenever a bittersweet joke lands. Botha propels through the play with impressive stamina: the parkour choreography by Jackson Turner utilises the minimal set excellently. However, I was deeply concerned when at one point Botha jumped from one end of the set to another and the entire construction moved to the right by a couple of inches.
Steve Edwin also presents two very different characters, Lukas’ teacher and a man with Parkinson’s who Rose meets in a waiting room. It is this optimistic character that gives Rose her mantra: “accept, adapt, adjust”. The mantra becomes the heart of the piece, giving some sort of resolution to Rose’s arc.
There is definitely some heart in Kinetics, but I couldn’t help but feel that we have seen too many plays like this before. The confessional monologues of the characters, the movement sequences that tie together separate scenes and the often predictable script made it hard for me to connect with the play. There is a lack of chemistry and a sense of overacting on stage that takes away from the otherwise open and refreshingly honest script. Rose, who starts taking the medication, seems to remain the same throughout the play, which makes it hard to follow her character development and feel for her. There seem to be some hiccups in the pacing of the piece too: at one point we watch some YouTube footage of people doing parkour, a filler that I found distracting and slightly redundant. That being said, the space is utilised very well; special mention goes to Ollie Titterington who’s lighting design efficiently created exteriors and interiors on this otherwise quite minimal stage.
Although the play contains honest confessions and truly useful information on Parkinson’s, a disease often left in the shadows, the performances left me feeling disconnected.
Kinetics is played at London Drama Studio until 16 October 2016 and then continuing on its tour of the country. For more information, see The Arts Development Company website.