Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Wilby weaves comedy, memoir, love letters and Richard Hawley music to investigate the aftermath of a separation.
This is a beautifully orchestrated show that describes Wilby’s break-up with her partner, Sarah. She asks her audience if there is anyone who hasn’t been dumped and she says “if there is I usually tell them to get out.” She then appears with a mock sword and cape and tell us she is the ghost of our romantic futures “The way you end relationships has become less and less humane,” she says. “This is the day everything went wrong. January 5, 2011.”
In this show, Wilby reads a series of e-mails Sarah sent her and her response. As the audience listens, we realize that Wilby did not see the break up coming and is trying to understand what happened. It is obvious that she feels an e-mail is an impersonal and not very comfortable way to end a relationship. As we hear Sarah’s responses we realize that actually she was afraid to face Wilby and tell her directly that their romance was gone for her.
There is wry comedy in the show. Wilby says, “I should have seen this coming. She got me a nicer present than usual. She got me a flat.” And there are several truly beautiful moments. Wilby says that when they fell in love “For a moment time stopped and opportunity unfolded before us like a magic carpet.”
But she punctures the romantic balloon with ”There is nothing so romantic as someone who isn’t there.”
The show is a pastiche of readings from Wilby’s book and her e-mails, alternating with commentary and music. Through it all, we feel the combination of sadness and injury that everyone feels when a five-year bond is broken unexpectedly. “After almost five years, I feel I should have been consulted.”
But even as Wilby expresses her surprise that their relationship is no more, we can see the breakup coming. Sarah’s parents never accepted Wilby and she says “I realized I couldn’t fit into the construction of her (Sarah’s) life,” and she asks us if romantic fantasy could actually be a psychoses. “I wanted us to be amazing together,” she says. “How could I save this moment….did she even feel it.”
This is a thoughtful show. The pace is rapid and varied and Wilby gives us a polished, confident performance. It poses unsaid questions about the validity of romance in a relationship…is it only in the eyes of the beholder? Do we weave a gossamer web of meaning in a gesture or a remark that doesn’t exist only because we want it to be more real than it is? The Conscious Uncoupling is indeed a fascinating hour that leaves us thinking about our own relationships and what we should expect from them. .