New writing play events are often based around a single theme. Elsewhere, anthology films such as Four Rooms have a single character linking four different events in a hotel. Inspired also by Isabel Wright’s Peepshow, The Other Half (which is directed by Tom Radcliffe) utilisies these concepts to explore human connections and what ‘the other half’ means to different people living within the same building.
Talking directly to the audience, Michael Billington’s opening monologuue is contemplative, acknowledging how at times music can strike a chord regarding relationships, especially in hindsight. As the the lichpin for all the threads in The Other Half, his ‘solo’ status contrasts with the conflicts that occur in each of the ‘conversations’. The first of these involve Simon Balcon’s character visiting his sister (Kate Kelly). As someone who suffers from OCD-behaviour and agoraphobia, she lives a very isolated life that’s governed by routine. Her brother – who has overcome his own OCD traits – wants to help her do the same before he leaves for a life in the north of England. But even he is alarmed now by the OCD’s severity and decides a bit of ‘tough love’ is required… There aren’t so many plays that deal with brother-sister relationships – let alone OCD behaviour – so this was intriguing for many reasons. However, without giving anything away, the way that both characters go through their respective arcs keeps the audience emotionally-engaged from start to finish and the conclusion emotionally truthful.
The second narrative involves a young couple who have just arrived home from work. The boyfriend (James Alexandrou) chats to his partner (Celine Abrahams) about their day while he prepares the evening meal. However, her lack of appetite triggers a series of events leading to an explosive conclusion… At the core of this narrative is the need to talk – really talk – not just saying one’s piece and not listening to what the other person is really saying. After all, as Jim Carrey says in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: “Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating…” Every bit as intense as the first narrative, it doesn’t pull its punches and poses the question about what men think women want and need versus women’s own expectations.
While there is a sense of continuity with Billington opening the play post- interval, the events in the second half marks a sharp shift in tone and energy. Vahid Jahangard plays a helpful neighbour who happens to hail from India. His peaceful demaeanour is put to the test, however, when he receives an unexpected vistor (Kate Freer). Looking for his ‘other half’, her news that will affect his future. Not realising the gravity of the situation, his lack of comprehension takes on a tragicomedy quality, not unlike the lead character in Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms…
© Michael Davis 2017
The Other Half runs at Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theate, Walthamstow until 1st July (7.30pm).