Hats off to theatre company Waldeinsamkeit for the play’s misleadingly ominous title: turns out (spoiler!) no one buries anyone in the company’s debut show. Well, not literally they don’t. In a more figurative sense, the piece looks at the death of a relationship, the way we remember and reconstruct our memories, and how our identity shifts and alters during and after a romantic relationship. The story is a fairly simple one – boy meets girl etc. etc. – and yet Waldeinsamkeit have managed to put a fairly distinctive spin on it by use of their imaginative staging – a mix of eerie lighting, fresh dialogue and slick movement work.
The boy, Richard (Joseph Lynch), meets girl, Sophie (Rea Mole). We get snippets of their relationship through Waldeinsamkeit’s fragmented means of storytelling: their first date cut into a few very distinct moments; their meet-up with friends, delivered directly to the audience, as brief as it is bold; the decline of their relationship shown to us in a juxtaposition of dance-like movement and argumentative moments between Sophie and Richard. Thrown into the mix are various characters, most of whom we never see but hear through recordings, demonstrating the company’s effective use of aural as well as visual means to create a rich mixture of performance styles.
But there is an issue in the piece of not actually being able to hear some of what’s being said. Every so often the actors’ voices are too small, their volume turned down, and the words are lost in the space of the Pleasance. This worsens when the use of music or sound comes into play. As fitting and atmospheric as the use of sound is (especially the frequent occasions when sounds are muffled, as if the real world is too distant for Richard and Sophie to be aware of when they’re together), there are moments when important pieces of dialogue get completely swallowed up by the music.
That being said, the company rectify this at times with their great use of microphones throughout the piece. Stephanie Bain’s therapist character encapsulates the best part of You must be the one to bury me and the company’s intriguing use of light and sound. In an attempt to bring focus to Richard’s sessions, she runs a Q&A style conversation by use of a torch and a microphone, creating moments of great visual simplicity that in turn are hugely effective. These are the best moments – when the stage is in darkness save for bright bursts of torchlight, encapsulating the isolation and vividness of Sophie and Richard’s relationship.
All in all, however, it just feels as if it could do with tightening up a bit. There are a few moments of awkwardness in scene changes or in movement work that is unaccompanied by sound or dialogue, which, as visually impressive as it is, seems to be lacking something. The production on the whole could do with a little polishing, adding to it a higher degree of professionalism. This aside, Waldeinsamkeit have created an imaginative, touching piece of theatre that aptly says some profound things about the leftovers of a person at the end of a relationship.
You must be the one to bury me played at the Pleasance Theatre on 11-12 September. For more information, see the Pleasance Theatre website.