Norwich is blessed with a number of new young theatre companies producing a variety of interesting new works, so my expectations were high when I was invited to see the premiere of ‘In Addition’ as a part of the Young Norfolk Arts Festival.
This powerful new play is written and directed by Daisy Minto and gives a compelling if rather bleak view of our near future if we fail to arrest the endless Tory drive to an all-market economy where a free NHS service is a distant memory.
The play is a stylish and physical piece with just two performers: Rachel Elizabeth Coleman as Sheyna and Lewis Sinnadurai Allum as Ben. Sheyna and Ben are a young couple who face continual uncertainty of income and employment in spite of their skills and talents. They are both emotionally and financially dependent on help from their parents, but their strong and stable family backgrounds are crumbling as their parents face the illnesses and depredations of increasing old age. The parents are from a generation who knew stable employment and a comprehensive welfare state, but in this play these have been eroded away by the political drift to the right.
This is not a dull and polemic bit of agitprop theatre as the story is told by the complex inter-relationships within and near to the young couple. The dialogue and movement are both expressed with great tenderness and empathy and there will be few in the audience who do not recognise some of the intimate details of a domestic relationship under stress. The couple are fighting to maintain their self respect and affection to each other while finding themselves under siege in almost every area of life. Even the most stony-hearted viewer would be drawn into their dilemmas and distresses.
In every couple there are imbalances and differences which often, but not invariably, follow gender patterns long familiar. In this context Sheyna seems at the start of play to be more capable of holding things together and giving support to her troubled partner Ben, but this inevitably leads to her being unprepared when her own challenges become overwhelming. If you live as part of a couple this play will challenge you to reflect on your own role within that partnership.
The staging is innovative in that the lighting is all controlled and placed by the two actors onstage, with a soundtrack that reminds us of the relentless pressure from electronic devices in every part of our lives and our dependence upon them. There is a gentle but appropriate musical score from Christopher Bingham as a part of the soundtrack that helps to build the atmosphere of tension.
The play has no interval, but is not overlong while allowing the tension to gradually build towards the climax. The sentimental me would perhaps have preferred a little more light and shade – even in the most trouble relationships there are usually moments that remind you why you chose each other in the first place, and a few lighter thoughts would probably add to rather than subtract from the powerful message of this play.
Everyday we are bombarded with political messages saying ‘we cannot afford to keep the NHS as it is’ – we can and must; and ‘it must be easier to hire and fire employees to ensure faster growth’ – another myth spouted by the latest addition to the musical chairs of our current Cabinet. This play shows what will happen if you allow such dogma to prevail. I would make this excellent play mandatory viewing for all these rich and entitled MPs until they finally get the message that life is better when we work together and look after each other without every gesture being used as a financial transaction.
For a premiere of a new show this work is very good indeed and gives us some names to watch out for in the exciting world of new theatre. A captivating and human tale told brilliantly.
© Julian Swainson 2018
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Stage 2 Theatre Royal, YNAF: 10th July 7pm; International Youth Theatre Kingston; 15th July 5pm Bedford Fringe Festival: 18th July 6pm