Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Iron SHoes in association with Tristan Bates Theatre
Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate
Heart-tugging look at the dangers of temptation, Facebook fantasy and letting yourself go in a powerful new piece by Paul Charlton that explores the a young married couple’s increasingly troubled relationship.
You realize that time is galloping on when policemen start looking youthful but I suppose that at least gives you the excuse to prepare for an enjoyable mid-life crisis. Yet when you come across a play where the two characters are going through such a crisis at the sprightly age of 29, you really do start to wonder whether you’ve blinked and missed out on a large chunk of life. 29 for heavens sake? I was barely out of university by then and in no fit state to embark on a relationship crisis, let alone one featuring a marriage I had been in for the last 7 years.
Ah well, they tell me that the pace of life has quickened in the past generation and so it has with Sam (Neil Grainger) and Anna (Claire Dargo). Sam is something of a stereotypical lad, fond of his football, beer and his wife Anna. He’s a dreamer, a drifter that has tried several times to build a career with little success and there is a dawning realization that his days of spontaneity and laughs are over as middle class mediocrity moves onto the horizon. Anna has let herself go a bit over the last 7 years so Sam’s chance meeting with a slim and attractive young teacher called Maggie rapidly turns into an obsession. This being the 21st century, most of the interchange with Maggie is internet based – how long before Facebook is called as a witness in divorce proceedings I wonder – which only serves to fuel Sam’s desires and increase his frustration with Anna, although he clearly still loves her.
Anna, meantime, is growing increasingly frustrated with Sam. Understandably annoyed when Sam reveals his Facebook fantasy, she resolves to do something about it, namely sort out Sam’s career, get rid of her flab and get their marriage back on the rails. So the diet plans come out and she too develops an obsession, this time for the gym.
A lot of theatre ends up exploring relationships in some way or another, yet Paul Charlton has done so in a fresh and invigorating way. In Sam and Anna he has created a couple with a loving, yet obviously dysfunctional relationship. The juxtaposition of Sam the dreamer and Anna the pragmatist comes across strongly through the actors’ portrayal of their respective characters. Both want the other to be something they can never be. Both want to meet the other’s expectations but are incapable of delivering. Neither can resist the continual hitting of the self-destruct button that got them into this situation in the first place.
Relayed through a series of touchingly played monologues, the story is a telling reminder to us all that relationships need to be kept fresh to remain alive. The shattering and rather tragic conclusion illustrates perfectly what happens when you fail to do so.