Theatre503’s double bill opens with Dan Horrigan’s Still I see My Baby, a collection of scenes which could almost be described as miniature pieces of theatre in their own right. Set in a futuristic landscape, we are let into a world of uncertainty and paranoia. Conception is conditioned, with strict laws in place, and homosexuality is officially a defect. Although the subject matter is unsettling, the actors on stage portray sensitive yet stimulating characters in this world of tomorrow.
The five actors interchange seamlessly between moments, as they shed and replace garments to set the place in hand. They move through the space efficiently, marking the trajectory of the world they have just left, ready to enter the next.
Parenthood, love, law and desire are among the themes that are toyed with in this kaleidoscope of possibility. A particular scene that resonates with me is between Sonnie Beckett and Max Saunders-Singer, a couple who are awaiting the verdict of whether they can legally conceive. If they are denied, will they take the leap to the ‘Other Side’ to have their baby? Danger and a deep longing reverberate between both the actors onstage. We see real people, desperate and in need of an answer that they may not find if they stay in the same world.
Max Saunders-Singer carves individuality and essence into each character he plays, from a nervous, jolting criminal, to a cocksure, homophobic lawyer. Saunders-Singer and Gareth Radcliffe share the stage with playfulness and animation. Radcliffe makes wonderful use of the futuristic prop – the ‘cube’ with which he pays for his “defected” little girl’s treatment, by pressing his thumb on top of it. That is until the third charge is prompted and he checks his thumb only to realise he can’t afford anything more. The future of the ATM/credit card machine is an excellent and welcome accessory to the action.
The women resonate both in unison and in opposition in this strange world. Antonia Davies plays a confused mother in the solace of longing, with sensitivity and simplicity. Ali Kemp accurately showcases a parent’s desperation when demanding that people understand that she cannot forget her child who has been ‘already processed’. Sonnie Beckett’s plethora of characters are extremely well-executed, ranging from a little girl playfully catching her father’s eye by popping a flower in his shoelace, to a mother convulsing in her confused heartache at the loss of her unborn child.
Hannah Kaye’s direction supports the text being spoken. Beckett, Kemp and Saunders-Singer’s courtroom ‘jury’ movement sequence is oddly mesmerising and haunting under the spotlight.
Happiness is the second instalment of the evening written by Danny Whitehead and directed by Dan Horrigan. The scene is set in the present-day, on the morning of a young couple’s honeymoon.
Augustina Seymour plays Deborah, still encased in the heat and haze of her abusive ex-fiance, Raymond, and their volatile relationship. Raymond, played by Tom Futerill, pays her an awkward and intimidating surprise visit to their hotel room, dressed as the concierge.
Ben, her husband, played by Gareth Richardson, discovers the source of his wife’s distraction, post-visit, and explodes in frustration. Richardson catapults from his newlywed, endorphin-brimming bliss to an angered, booming-voiced disappointment in seconds. Once it is realised that Deborah is still thinking about her ex, we are intrigued as to why. Whitehead’s script keeps us longing for the answers until the very last second.
The fairground scene gives us a softer side of the ex–lovers. Seymour and Futerill warm the space between one another onstage as they portray two people, seized by soul and fire. This beautiful moment is reserved for the end which delightfully wraps up the action of the evening. Time is played with in this short piece which, in turn, plays with the audience’s perceptions.
Common themes rise to the surface in both plays, with raw human need being prevalent at the forefront. I am left to question the human race and the future ahead of me. Or perhaps the future is closer than we think? I would highly recommend this thought-provoking, relevant set of snapshots, powered by an imaginative glimpse into some of the possibilities the future might hold. If you dare to look ahead that is.
Still I See My Baby/Happiness is playing until the 22 February. For more information please visit the Theatre503 website.