Despite focusing only on Dylan (Theo Walker) and Eddie (Ned Costello), a very normal Bristol based couple, Marmite appears to use this pair as a starting point to discuss wider issues surrounding the nature of relationships, family and external expectations.
For me, probably the most interesting topic of conversation in Marmite focuses on the changing ways in which we view open relationships, specifically same sex relationships. Here, it starts to delve into some interesting territory: in a modern context, can full monogamy really be expected? Or is it, as Dylan so succinctly puts it, “a bit old fashioned”? It’s hard to pin down exactly what this relationship really is, but that’s because the characters themselves aren’t sure. A combination of insecurity and an unwillingness to communicate are all it really takes to bring the whole thing crumbling down, a slow sinking of the proverbial Titanic, overseen by Eddie’s well meaning but often chaotic sister Rosie (Rosanna Hitchen).
Although the trio are very equally balanced in terms of plot significance and contribution Hitchen as Rosie particularly stands out. Her well intentioned but sometimes misplaced efforts to help everyone get along, combined with her own off-stage struggles, make for a challenging combination, but it’s one that Hitchen handles with apparent ease.
The whole thing is definitely a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s dealt with smoothly. From the outset, lines jump over one another and time surges forward with great pace, as if the writers, Hallam Breen and Phoebe Simmonds, are telling us that we have a lot to get through, so we have to keep going. Ultimately, of course, the reason this works so well is that it mirrors the content of the play itself. A collision of weddings and jobs and moving house means that life never pauses to catch a breath, and so we musn’t either.
If nothing else, it’s always a bit of a relief to see theatre about a gay couple in which (spoiler) nobody dies, and nothing all that life threatening or terrible happens to anyone. Instead, the drama is allowed to be about the small things, the domesticities of everyday life, the kitchen sink banality that has been permitted to dominate the stories of heterosexual couples seemingly since the beginning of time. By and large, all of the politics are internal, with the homophobia that would often take centre stage barely being given a passing nod. It’s a pleasant ode to where we are right now, that there is room for a wider range of stories to be told about gay people, ranging from high drama to the mundane.
While I didn’t fall in love with Marmite, there is certainly a lot to like (there’s a pun about actual Marmite in there somewhere, but I’m not going to be the one to make it). It goes some way to fill the niche of ‘smaller’ stories about gay couples, telling their tales without falling into the trap of making everything a tragedy.
Marmite is playing as part of the VAULT Festival until 17 February. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival wesbite.