With a play entitled He(art), you would expect it to have a lot of emotion and feeling. A narrative involving an improbable couple, two siblings from Wembley and an art exhibition, He(art) interweaves these seemingly disparate elements and forges a tale that is gritty, yet also funny and full of hope.
Written by Andrew Maddock and directed by Niall Phillips, He(art) marks a departure from the rhythmic prose of some of Maddock’s earlier plays, but it’s encouraging to see he’s open to experimentation and his writing style is evolving.
Maddock has an affinity for writing about the marginalised, the precariat, the forgotten – giving them a voice and a humanity previously denied them in plays. In the case of He(art), much of the focus is on Sam (Flora Dawson) who has emotional behaviour difficulties. Her older brother Kevin (Shane Noone) is all too familiar with people from all walks of life and has a strained relationship with their mother. Often Kevin relies on Sam for information or to run errands for him. Also hailing from Wembley is Rhys (Jack Gogarty), whose professional pride and standard as a window cleaner has not only led to constant demand for his services, but a relationship with gallery curator Alice (Alex Reynolds) who beyond their obvious differences in background, recognises a kinship in spirit.
However, part and parcel of what makes Rhys who he is, is an ailment of the heart which exponentially increases the chances of dying young. While knowledge of this has liberated Rhys from placing importance on material things and the worries of tomorrow, for Alice this is an untenable prospect, frustrated at his seemingly fatalistic attitude. And providing a link between these parallel lives is a painting – an object which like the characters in the play is more than meets the eye and has hidden value…
The four-strong cast play their roles with aplomb, though Dawson and Gogarty are particularly good in their respective roles. As for the play’s tone, towards the end it has a cinematic quality in terms of the chain of events and the palpable tension. Throw in a toe-tapping Motown soundtrack, Maddock and Phillips’ play wears its heart for all to see.
© Michael Davis 2017
He(art) runs at Theatre N16 (Balham, London) until 28th January 2017.