Wednesday 25 April 2018

Mayfly @ The Orange Tree Theatre

Mayfly @ The Orange Tree Theatre

In his debut play, Joe White has deftly captured the mundanity of rural life. This is a small town where everyone is stuck in the same monotonous routine, where a man could easily commit suicide in the river, disappear, and never return.

Except, by chance, he's caught in time. Mayfly, set in rural Shropshire, starts with a father attempting suicide but is saved by a passerby who just happened to take a different route to work. Much of the narrative of Mayfly depends on chance - the father's wife is convinced through a horoscope that on this day "a very special person will appear" - but chance seems like a relative thing in this small town setting.

The father, Ben (Simon Scardifield), is saved by a local waiter, Harry (Irfan Shamji). Harry is unknowingly the soon-to-be boyfriend of Ben's daughter Loops (Evelyn Hoskins). Later he serves Cat (Niky Wardley) in the pub who jokingly (perhaps) offers him sex - she's Ben's wife and Loops' mother. This may all be chance, but their lives are about to be interlinked.

The family are grieving the death of their son a year ago. And Harry is about to become a replacement.

At first this all occurs in fragmented episodes. In each individual moment we learn a little more about the relationships between these characters, the scenes featuring some touching monologues and some surprising humour. Hoskins delivers this juxtaposition especially well as the wide-eyed tomboy Loops: she's "hard as fuck" yet equally fragile. White's script has a breathless, irregular rhythm to it that's nonetheless full of character.

That fragmentation is intentional. This is a play about a broken family, distanced through grief. Throughout, the set (Cécile Trémoliéres) is slowly tidied and reorganised of its detritus, the dirt of depression and mourning literally swept aside.

Harry is, unwittingly, the missing puzzle piece. Yet the drama relies on him not realising the family's intentions, something the audience has long figured out. It's also something that seems unlikely considering the small town setting. As a result, the play's climactic dinner scene, with its series of unravelling revelations, feels a little forced.

In the earlier scenes, though, White proves he has a knack for quirky dialogue. The cast deliver the lines wonderfully, ensuring Mayfly is always a compelling watch - even if it's just to see what comes out of their mouths next.


Watch: Mayfly runs at the Orange Tree Theatre until 26th May.

Mayfly @ The Orange Tree Theatre

Mayfly @ The Orange Tree Theatre
Photos: Helen Murray