TW: the show contains discussion of sexual assault

In the aftermath of a night of what would appear to be a vigorously passionate encounter, Reed swans around in an oblivious post-coital bliss, engaged in a frivolous one-sided conversation about natural soap and mouthwash as he cleans up before departure. In the unmade bed, Angie sits clenched and enraged. Expecting to casually make plans to see each other again, Reed is blindsided by Angie’s claim of sexual assault. For the next 70 minutes, the two will battle it out through a minefield of varying perspectives, perceptions, comprehension, assumption, and uneasy negotiation. The audience is hermetically sealed along with the couple within the tight confines of space, for better and worse.

Credit: Harry Burton

Reed is certainly not a sterling example of virtue. With a wife & child at home, he has chosen to engage in an adulterous act while attending a business conference. His conspirator, it would seem, is Angie who is in the employ of Reed’s pharmacist spouse (how he & Angie came to be drinking in the same pub is never referenced). Both inebriated and dangerously flirtatious, they retire to Angie’s flat to continue their celebrations. Tumbling into bed in what is thought a mutually consensual exchange will in the morning look and sound quite more problematic. Unclear communication, misunderstood or ignored signals, presumptuous gestures, and selfish gratification is the undoing of the event. If Reed is not a monster, he is surely fatally thoughtless in his actions and liberties taken. Watching him flail and twist attempting to rationalise his behaviour, to not be considered a rapist, gives rise to some of the darkest, sharpest humour in Amy Lee Lavoie’s script. Reed is deeply unseated by being defined so malignantly, by the fact he could be considered criminal. This designation is a personal affront and certainly not in keeping with how he would like to present himself. In Angie’s hands, and in her decision as to who to contact the police, his wife-his world could quickly be dismantled. 

Lavoie works very hard to balance the two characters, giving both ample times to state their respective cases and allow rebuttal. Neither is, interestingly enough, absent a degree of selfish spite and venom. Some of the most shocking power plays, and sudden reversals of fortune, hinge on these less favourable aspects of character. Initially, Reed has a bit more space to manoeuvre, revealing a charming, engaging, and curiously earnest slab of clueless gender privilege. For much of the running time, Angie just has her unmodulated anger. While the unfolding conversation has volatility and insight and covers much important  #MeToo ground, it remains at a very conceptual level, never nesting specifically within the personalities of the two characters onstage. Rafaela Elliston and Robbie Martin try their best to infuse the dialogue with tremors of real vulnerability and emotional nuance, but something intractable and static remains in the structure. Reed is trapped in an aggrieved disbelief and Angie in mounting hysteria. Elliston and Martin at times seem pushed to an overreaction in the cramped space, shouting replacing distinction. There are also fretful, throwaway bits of business that seem calculated only to move the characters around an otherwise moribund stage. Occasionally, a signal from the wider world interrupts-a pounding on the wall from frustrated neighbours, a call from Reed’s wife.

It’s good to have a play about the intricacies of consent penned by a woman. Men such as David Mamet (OLEANNA) and David Harrower (BLACKBIRD) have had their say, so it is certainly time for a female voice. The title itself is an unfair, unbalanced harangue, a call for Angie to capitulate. The enervating circularity of the conversation, its inability to move on from the impasse, is the sad point of it all. The irresolution is key. Yet over the course of the running time, the pitch and flare, trapped in a loop, flattens out. The work rattles and rolls but never quite shifts electrically from the head to the gut. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

C’mon Angie is on at the White Bear Theatre until the 17th June – info here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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