Recently I was working in China – and to keep me in the loop – my close friend would send me emails about her life, not with updates of her work, gym gains or holiday news… but with the gory details of her love life! I am fascinated by romantic relationships, I love talking about love and was intrigued to see Untranslatable, a two-hander with this topic at its centre. The conversations I have surrounding love seem endless. Particularly as our current social climate is fuelled by apps like Tinder and Facebook, that publicly declare our relationship status, and seem to invite the world into our bedroom. Laura Douglas and Matthew Graham’s piece of new writing, Untranslatable, literally does this and follows a couples moments at bedtime, the ups (ahem) and downs, alongside the vulnerable and intimate moments we share with our partner as the lights go out.
Untranslatable is presented by Althea Theatre in co-production with HesaidSheSaid productions, and is being performed at the lovely off West End venue The Space Arts Centre. This malleable space is used well, with a sea of duvets and minimal props in the centre of the space with the audience in the round; we were the ultimate bedroom voyeurs! The overall design is kept simple, leaving the focus upon the actors and their dialogue – a clever move as this is a good piece of new writing. The dialogue is quirky and well-written by Douglas and Graham, spanning from ridiculous conservations about unicorns, to arguing with someone who knows you inside out. The characters are relatable and the vignette style, particularly towards the beginning of the show, demonstrates writers who really understand their characters and the journey. The direction by Lilac Yosiphon is clever and intelligent, with excellent use of the set for comedic effect.
Whilst the intentions and content of the show are very strong, there were a few stylistic elements that were confusing. The naturalistic dialogue and relationship between the couple didn’t always marry with the more stylised movement and music choices within the show, despite being delivered with precision. As both writers and performers are musicians, I would have loved to see even more live music to aid some of the transitions, particularly as some of the strongest elements for me were found within the movement and music. Untranslatable provides a great example of two actors owning the space and engaging an audience with an interesting topic, but I feel the content could be condensed to make the impact punchier.
This is a show with integrity in its heart and as a supporter of new writing I hope it continues to adapt and grow. Althea theatre prompts conversation and the subject matter of this show certainly does that in an exciting way. Untranslatable is heart warming and entirely accessible and I feel with a larger audience and some re-working, the ability to be an extremely funny and thought provoking piece of theatre.
Review by Lisa MacGregor
Untranslatable is playing at The Space until 13 August 2016