Matthew Bulgo’s The Awkward Years provides the inaugural production for The Other Room’s Autumn-Winter curated season.
Introduced to Lily, hangover ridden and trying to remember the detail of the events last night. There is a sense from the outset that there is something underpinning Lily’s behaviour that this story will unfold. As Lily, Lauren O’Leary is a tour d’force. Handling Lily’s personality in such a way that the physical performance encompasses everything and every character within her monologue.
At 55 minutes in duration, this is a fast paced performance. Scenes are broken up with the assistance of staggered movement. This is complemented by Angharad Evans’s lighting design and Tic Ashfield’s electronic sound design. This stark contrast enables Lily to jump from the current and into her past. In doing so, allowing the audience to piece together Lily’s story. And, in this accomplishment, O’Leary’s performance holds us in moments of comedy and moments of pain. Lily’s story takes us through the manipulative and vulnerable elements of the response to some form of tragedy, and in this O’Leary creates a character which embodies these traits physically and emotionally.
Whilst O’Leary is in control of the stage and her audience, the story and conclusion falls short. The complexity of the Lily’s character offers so much in the initial unravelling. Dan Jones directs a solid physical response to the piece and in doing so allows O’Leary to build her character to a crescendo. But this feels to be the play’s undoing. In unravelling what we, the audience, have seen we are left to resolve whether this woman and this scenario piece together. And there is something left wanting in a man’s interpretation of a female’s response to a life-defining circumstance. There is so much that says now is the time to turn the table, to show the fullness and expanse of how woman can be defined.
Whilst the underpinning sense that in creating a woman’s story, a woman’s character should be fulfilled. In leaving The Other Room there is the understanding that in being introduced to Lily, to O’Leary’s performance, there is something to be held and retained.
The Awkward Years is at The Other Room Theatre until Saturday 29 September 2018. Tickets are available on the website.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All views and opinions contained are my own.