Undocumented, presented by Mull Theatre, starts in a strong position and hits the ground running, with some fast-paced dialogue, complimented with a classic comedic clash of personality. New homeowner Jess rocks up to her freshly-built villa-style home, presumably on the Isle of Mull, expecting an easy entry. But oh no, she’s met by Pete, the proud islander on house watch, who happens to be armed with a flare. It’s a brilliant grab.
Straight away Anita Vettesse’s script establishes clear-cut characters, whilst throwing in a lot of plot, backstory, humour and drama – perhaps a little too much. Simon Donaldson is simply hilarious as Pete, with his quirky mannerisms and brash delivery which contrasts well with Ashley Smith’s mysterious, but emotionally powerful Jess.
What’s intriguing about this story, is that it’s extremely present within the context of the world and we see the collapsing life structures in two individuals.
Clocking in at just 34 minutes, Undocumented is loaded with off-the-wall humour, some of which lies naturally within the piece, and some of which feels slightly shoehorned in. One does wonder if it’s a little too soon to be joking about redundancies and setting up independent arts and crafts home businesses – but humour is a healer, and it’s still fairly fresh creative ground.
What is slightly troubling are the drastic shifts in tone. After Jess has swallowed a bag of pills, in a moment of desperation to end her life, the conversation somehow diverts to talking about Pete’s pebble painting art, his best work being a portrait of Jason Donovan. Although the idea is funny, it takes away from the intensity and severity of the situation, and the stakes are ultimately dropped.
It’s surprisingly refreshing that this piece doesn’t shy away from being a filmed theatre production. Beth Morton has done well in directing this socially-distanced play, including some clever choreography to highlight a quick scuffle, to the point where you actually forget about the rules. But it’s all still safe!
Jamie Wardrop has created a dynamic flow of cinematography that embraces the beauty of a black box stage and indulges in some close ups, whilst mirroring the pace of the text. We know there is no audience in the room, which only heightens the isolation of these two characters.
With some hit and miss humour, Undocumented has some really tender moments of an instinctive connection between two strangers. Thematically, it’s covering a lot of ground, but not really flowing as a piece as smoothly as it could be. Although it swings between extremes and the energy is dropped a couple of times, the piece is still engaging. But best be prepared from some wacky one-liners.
Undocumented is streaming online, until 27 October. For tickets and information, see An Tobar and Mull Theatre’s website.