Who They Were - Review
In “Who They Were” the they of the title are a female couple that haven’t seen each other in over 90 years. They are meeting up to clear out the apartment and during this time old grievances are aired and resentments raised.
Let’s first deal with the elephant in the room. They are meeting up after 90 years yet still look like they are in their 20’s because they are immortals (commonly known as vampires though that term is never used). But essentially, it’s about relationships and the set up, as well as providing most of the humour, is used as an effective tool to discuss things that might otherwise feel contrived such as the role of women and lesbianism in the past and a contrast on how views how changed.
We start by meeting Eros who has set up a type of assisted suicide service (for food) and is interrupted by Florence and they quickly start discussing their relationship together. Eros portrays has a hardness that never really melts, even as she expresses how she’d been hurt, making it difficult to understand her feelings. At times it felt like the actor was holding back and we would like to see a little more emotion come through. Florence on the other hand comes in as an open book and is a much more complex character. She is intriguing and we want to understand her more as she herself acknowledges her own contradictions.
The show also explores mental health, again with a look at how perceptions of it have changed, and in particular how visibility of mental health has changed, where the term depression wasn’t even used after two world wars. This is most visible when Joe arrives the apartment offering herself as a feed. She’s on stage for the shortest time of all the characters but manages to be instantly warm and sympathetic and quickly opens up about her relationships and what has brought her to the current point in her life. She has the rawest moments of the play and Ruby Herrington’s portrayal is devastatingly honest. For me this was the standout performance.
The play is impressively written with a sharp wit and provides a great insight into these characters. It’s sometimes said writers should let other directors bring their work to life. If that’s true then this is the exception that proves the rule. The play flows well and the director takes advantage of opportunities to provide lightness and laughter alongside the more serous moments. Luke is an exciting talent with good ideas and importantly believable dialogue which has both humour and depth. I hope to see more from him in the future. We give this three Laura Michelle-Kelly stars.
It’s on until November 9th at Etcetera Theatre in Camden and tickets can be bought here: http://www.etceteratheatre.com/index.php?id=2