An actor and a writer stuck together in lockdown. At first glance, this may seem like the perfect opportunity to create the most amazing piece of work ever known to the performing world. Time is no constraint and there is nothing better to do. In reality, it’s the most uninspiring time in which you wish you could work, but the environment just isn’t quite right. This is the idea at the core of Wednesday, the newest addition to the Scenes for Survival collection from the National Theatre of Scotland.
Set in a communal garden, written by Tena Štivičić and directed by Finn den Hertog, Wednesday opens with a monologue from a troubled character as he reflects on his previous relationships after becoming ill with coronavirus. Theatrical and poetic in its writing at that moment, it’s thought-provoking and moving. However, the tone shifts dramatically as the actor snaps out of character to discuss his ideas with the writer, and the story follows their relationship.
Although Štivičić’s text suggests that these two people are a couple who live together, it doesn’t translate in performance which makes the story very difficult to buy into. Douglas Henshall is thoughtful and expressive whilst Morven Christie is collected and straight-talking. With an evident disconnect the piece overall feels flat and rigid, but the writing is clear in highlighting the lockdown frustrations bubbling below the surface.
The conversations that do come up are interesting. These characters bicker and make digs towards each other’s professions and habits. Art often mirrors society but sometimes the lines are blurred – the actor feels irritated and believes the character is based on him, whilst the writer is processing her bizarre surroundings in the only way she knows how. The old saying ‘Never mix business with pleasure’ springs to mind on this occasion.
Coronavrius seems to have seeped deep into the lives of everyone, so it’s no surprise that comments on the pandemic come up in conversation. Although it feels messy, it’s true to life in that emotional outbursts seem to come from nowhere and frustrations are running high.
At the end of the scene, the camera pans round to the flat building, where all the onlooking neighbours applaud the performance in the garden. It’s a truly heart-warming moment that reminds one of the joys in a shared experience of storytelling.
Wednesday is successful in showing the day to day cracks in a working relationship and highlights the lack of creative inspiration. It also gives a first insight into how scenes may be filmed for a little while. Complying to social distancing rules can be a bit of an energy kill, so it’ll be a work in progress to overcome that.
Wednesday is streaming, for free, online. For more information go to the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.