The story of The Yellow Wagtail, follows a young couple’s battle through love, loss and the surfacing of romantic feelings with an ex-partner. Lily (Hermione Halpin), is a passionate artist who has let her personal life hold her back from her dreams of going to university and pursuing her painting. Whilst Henry (Thomas Dixon), a doctor of ornithology, who is set to be engaged, struggles to come to terms with the fact that his life has been mapped out for him.
The play tells two stories in tandem. The first follows the couple as love-struck youngsters, loosely planning a future together before university and responsibility. The other follows the two meeting several years later, after being broken up and estranged from each other. In their later meeting, they catch up awkwardly, argue, toy with the idea of re-kindling their love and ultimately diagnose where it all went wrong.
Debut playwright, Halpin beautifully depicts the complexities of modern romantic relationships. The writing is smooth, vibrant and naturally funny without pulling focus from the severity of the subject matter. The characters are likeable, engaging and you find yourself very invested in their journey together. With this in mind, the development of the story itself is perhaps a little unsatisfying. However, it does further solidify the theme of relationships not being straight-forward.
The set design was necessarily simplistic, with four standing panels acting as a wall in Lily’s family home in both stories. Changing between the two time frames was cleverly accomplished, and the scene changes were seamless and slick, incorporating the characters within them.
The fundamental success of this charming two-hander, is the performances of Dixon and Halpin. It never felt as though the two were acting. They showed such tremendous depth in their characters, that it felt like they were simply just being. Both showed fantastic physicality and truth as well as a connected understanding of their characters’ rich back stories. Director Eloise Lally has created an enveloping chemistry between them, that leaves the audience routing for their characters to make it work. The staging is neat and imaginative, capturing the atmosphere of every shift in the characters’ moods.
Overall, The Yellow Wagtail is an endearing, fast paced and moving portrayal of a couple’s journey through adolescence. Although the story itself may not blow you away, Hermione Halpin’s writing is a triumph. It’s light hearted awkwardness juxtaposed with hard hitting emotion, makes for a compelling production. Running at only one hour, you are sure to be hugely engaged and captivated from start to finish.
The Yellow Wagtail played at The Lion And Unicorn Theatre until Sunday 5 June. For more information see, The Lion and Unicorn Theatre website.