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22nd February 2019

Review: Mydidae

Sam McElhattan reviews Mydidae the Northern premiere of a play written by BAFTA-winning playwright Jack Thorne and presented by Wonderhouse Theatre.
Review: Mydidae
Photo: @Shay Rowan

Mydidae was a tense drama about the relationship of a troubled couple that very nearly hit its mark. On the anniversary of their baby’s death and in the privacy of their bathroom, David (David Gregan-Jones) and Marian (Hollie-Jay Bowes) examine their relationship and come across some disturbing truths about themselves. Mydidae, directed by Laura Woodward, explores love, domestic abuse, and being an adult with an uncomfortable level of depth.

David and Marian began on opposite sides of the stage, preoccupied with their own tasks and separate from each other. This opening set a tone of distance which carried through the whole play. They were clearly individuals who, for better or for worse, had been brought together. While this tone created great conflict in their interactions, it also made it difficult to believe their relationship and that they previously had a child. The fact that they were on different wavelengths was abundantly clear, but I would have liked to see some more intimacy and understanding. A fraction more time spent on acknowledging their past in those moments that was mentioned, would have had a major impact on the stakes of their clashes.

Both Gregan-Jones and Bowes gave intelligent performances as a couple with an exterior of satisfaction and a disturbing, underlying resentment. Bowes displayed a complex inner battle between her contradictory feelings towards David and her self-destructive mentality. Gregan-Jones, while not as convincing as Bowes, displayed deep contemplation of the emotions provoked by Marian.

The biggest let-down of Mydidae was the climax, in which, while sharing a bath, David loses control and begins to strangle and drown Marian. This single act of violence in an otherwise reserved play came out of nowhere. There was opportunity in Jack Thorne’s script for Marian to react insensitively to David’s openness in the moments preceding the attack, creating a more realistic build up to this climax, but this was not taken advantage of. The abruptness of this action ruined any connection I had with David’s character. I think the intended dynamic was their shared struggles help them understand each other and work on them together. However, the misjudged pacing left me wondering why she would stay with him.

The bathroom setting, while not essential to the narrative, the intimacy complemented the confrontational attitudes of the couple. There was nowhere to hide as they invaded each other’s space and the consequences were disturbing. There was an interesting link created between the bathroom setting and body image, and between body image and mother-child relationships. In little snippets of an additional relationship, I could see the destructive relationship Marian had with her mother, which permeated the way that she responded to David and to herself. This demonstrated clever writing by Jack Thorne and visible understanding of the character from Bowes.

Kieran Lucas’ sound design in scene changes, enhanced the tense and deeply disconcerting atmosphere established by Bowes and Gregan-Jones. However, it clashed with the play as a whole. While the set made the privacy of the situation very clear, the sound suggested intrusion from the outside world (it sounded like a helicopter passing), causing me to expect a collision of David and Marian’s intimate relationship and the outside world that threatens it. This expectation was never met. Greater variation in the sound design could also have helped the atmosphere build gradually so that when David finally unleashes his resentment and attacks Marian, it doesn’t feel so abrupt.

Mydidae acts as a good demonstration of what being an adult is: you don’t cope with trauma, you struggle to have a good relationship with your parents, and you keep surrounding yourself with people you shouldn’t. The solution is summed up in the final line “I’d really like to get drunk.” It’s about putting up with it and getting on with it. Laura Woodward’s direction and Gregan-Jones and Bowes’ performances enabled this meaning to be conveyed. However, it was lacking in several areas and unfortunately, its flaws cannot be overlooked.

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