Hedgehogs & Porcupines, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

895027_811c976c6e1e4529990c2304ef32e8c5~mv2Intimacy: letting oneself be vulnerable to ‘baggage’, words and actions of another. Perhaps not a textbook romantic/sexual definition of the word, but in Hedgehogs & Porcupines, ‘hearts and flowers’ associations are stripped away, as it lays bare the reality of maintaining a relationship.

Written by James P Mannion and directed by Marcus Marsh, Hedgehogs & Porcupines first begins during the ‘honeymoon period’ when the eponymous couple first get together. Fast forward five years and we see that they have ‘got into a groove’ whereby they have their respective routines and patterns of behaviour that annoy each other.

‘Porcupine’ (David Shields) works as a financial analyst and often has to work irregular hours at the drop of a hat. Consequently, when he does eventually arrive home, the last thing he feels like doing is being in a rush to go out again – to see people he barely has a connection with. ‘Hedgehog’ (Rebecca Bailey) meanwhile, is a philosophy student and while she has a part-time job, she structures her life so that she can make study, earn money AND see her friends (who are invariably couples). Things come to a crunch over a 24 hour period, when Porcupine’s late arrival home sparks a chain of events, leading to both speaking candidly about each other’s ‘faults’ and what has made them ‘unhappy’…

By showing the ‘flattering and ‘not-so-flattering’ aspects of each of the characters, the audience can understand why they behave the way they do. Porcupine ‘lives in the moment’ – dealing with life/work’s time-consuming problems and then ready to give Hedgehog his fullest attention afterwards. Hedgehog understands the pressues he’s under, but doesn’t understand why he can’t send the occasional text to let her know he’s detained or unavailable for a while. Porcupine’s behaviour can be put down to absent-mindedness – non-malicious in intent, but ends up repeatedly wearing her down. Similarly, her openly critical conversations about his ‘thoughtlessness’ erodes his patience. Something has to give…

Bailey and Shields have a natural, unforced chemistry – effortlessly portraying the ‘love/hate’ relationship the couple have. That’s not to say the play is like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where remarks are calculated to cause the most damage. Rather, there is weariness between Hedgehog and Porcupine where honesty arrives from letting one’s guard slip, leading to cascading comments. The quills that Shields and Bailey wear on their respective jackets certainly convey the prickly nature of each other’s personalities and how vulnerable they are to each other. When both parties at different times thinks of leaving the other, they are visibly crestfallen. It’s easier to be the ‘dumper’ than ‘dumpee’…

A couple that knows that they make each other unhappy is perhaps reason enough to call it a day. But the fact they still have intense feelings for each other – rather than the absence of them – shows there’s life in the embers yet…

© Michael Davis 2018

Golden stars rating template isolated on white background.

Hedgehogs and Porcupines runs at Old Red Lion Theatre until 6th October.

https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/hedgehogs-porcupines.html

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