We’ve all been there — on a busy busy train from Edinburgh to London. It’s a long journey, there are no seats to be spared and somebody has made the bold, yet utterly contemptible decision to give their luggage the privilege of a seat. Although cliché — for good reason — this offence marks the catalytic beginning of Blink Theatre’s new train drama, Open Return.
Written by Ben Worth, this digital play focuses on the coincidental clashing of two very opposite types of train travellers: those who like to talk to people on public transport, and those who don’t.
Jenny tumbles on the train, running late and hungover whilst Jean sits peacefully reading her book, determined not to be interrupted. Caitlin Lavagna is brassy and quick-witted as Jenny, speaking without thinking and putting her foot in it at every opportunity — embarrassing, but ultimately hilarious. Initially, this all feels like a comedic monologue, and we do begin to wonder where it’s going. However, as Jean, played tenderly by Sarah Rickman, begins correcting her new partner, her character slowly becomes more involved and we see a bond begin to blossom.
Worth’s script is quite the rollercoaster of a text. Featuring simple, yet shocking dialogue and some intense plot points, we really do cover a lot of ground. Journeying through taboo anecdotes and tricky subjects, the tension elevates with each new topic; it’s outrageous and fast-paced, but it’s deep-rooted in very real issues. Each story packs its own punch because it’s unexpected, but completely believable.
Director, Lottie Ruth Johnson, has done a wonderful job to make the audience believe that Jenny and Jean are on a train. The direct delivery to camera only intensifies the drama, whilst making it feel beautifully private.
It’s also worth noting that Lavagna and Rickman’s chemistry is pretty magical; they move through the text as though each syllable was written perfectly on a score. By the end of the play, I found their characters connection deeply emotional. Only a short time ago, they were strangers. Because they opened up, and took a chance, they have reached a deeper understanding of humanity and each other.
Open Return encapsulates the often outrageous, unimaginable, but scarily poignant events in life. In an increasingly disconnected world, this piece emphasises that conversation breeds conversation. We all need someone to listen to us and by telling our stories, and remaining open to new opportunities, we can rediscover what it means to connect to one another.
Open Return streamed online as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. For more information, see Blink Theatre online.