In theatre, actors can often be over-the-top or exaggerated. DryWrite’s Mydidae, written by award-winning playwright Jack Thorne, does exactly the opposite, refreshingly focusing on realism rather than theatricality. Mydidae – which means “a small cosmopolitan family of large flies” – seems to be the perfect title for this piece as we, the small audience, the flies on the wall, peer into this couple’s bathroom. Directed by Vicky Jones, Co-Artistic Director of DryWrite, Mydidae cleverly captures the events that unfold and Jones’s detailed direction is completely engrossing, sending the audience on a rollercoaster of emotion.
The entire piece is set in a bathroom, designed by Amy Cook Jones. The design is simplistic: everything is white, from the towels to the cabinets, the sink and the toilet. As the centrepiece of this play, in the middle of the stage sits a large, freestanding bathtub. This could be anyone’s bathroom, which in itself is powerful and makes us curious about what is about to take place.
Our stereotypical couple, Marion and David, entertain us with their kooky banter and quick wit, whilst teasing and embarrassing each other like nobody’s business. Marion, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the other Co-Artistic Director of DryWrite, is scarily sarcastic, blunt and has the deadpan comic timing one can only dream of. David, played by Keir Charles, is your stereotypical dominating male businessman. However, in the privacy of the bathroom, Charles cleverly contrasts this powerful male with a cheeky yet dysfunctional character who lies deeper. With Thorne setting a play entirely in a bathroom, we see every nook and cranny of not only the human body but also the human mind; from using the toilet to checking your body in a mirror, the audience witnesses what happens not just behind closed doors, but behind the closed doors of one of the most private places. This is what makes this piece so exceptional to watch. You can’t help but be hungry to see what unfolds in the bathroom.
What was so refreshing about this piece was its attention to detail. The intimacy of the set and the small studio theatre gave space for the actors to breath life and depth into their characters. The sheer proximity of the audience practically sitting in the bathroom with the characters made the acting utterly and scarily believable. The slight silences and elongated pauses, the minute glances, the odd suspicious glances, were never exhausted and complemented Throne’s writing truthfully. Too often when watching theatre as on onlooker there’s a distance, you can physically detach yourself, especially with straight acting theatre. With Mydidae, this separation doesn’t exist. You are the wall of the bathroom. You may be looking in, but you’re right slap bang in the action. This leads to various feelings of discomfort, embarrassment and awkwardness as you watch people using the of the toilet, bathing and undressing. Thorne and Jones push this even further as we hit the climax of the play: they run the risk of outlandishness and ridiculousness but cleverly, through the previous slow build-up of realities and truth, you can’t help but be sent into a state of fear, shock and helplessness as the events in this bathroom unfold.
What was so captivating about the entire piece was the simplicity. It’s very easy to become creatively extravagant, but it was clear that the creative crew had worked very closely together, which really heightened the realism of the piece. Credit must be given to the creative team for this clear focus, but most importantly an acknowledgement must go to Jack Williams and Katie Pitt for their lighting design. The simple lighting kept the realism, yet symbolically enhanced understanding of the piece rather than distracting or being too theatrical, which was refreshing.
The realism created in the script was beautiful, the performances were powerful and true, the aesthetics and sound of a bath running on stage in front of you as dialogue is interwoven was strikingly harmonious. So a slight disappointment came when one minute David was standing over the toilet, relieving himself (which was rather repulsive to watch, but simultaneously funny because of its elongated length) and then the next, Marion is on the toilet, but a sound recording is used. This inconsistency was quite distracting and ruined the realism of the piece, brining the audience back into a theatre and not in an average bathroom in London. These little inconsistencies kept cropping up which was a shame, but luckily the script and the acting stopped one from pondering too much on these.
Like much of DryWrite’s previous work, originality, initiative and passion are at the heart of what they create. Mydidae doesn’t disappoint. There were times when I wanted to jump out of my seat and kept having to remind myself “This is only theatre… but is she OK?” It’s moments like this that make you realise the power of theatre.
Mydidae is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 30 March. For more information and tickets, see the ATG Tickets website.