The Bunker’s first production of 2017 (and closing their inaugural season) is Fiona Doyle’s play Abigail, a two-hander that looks to explore the nature of love & how much we are able to control our lives.
The story revolves around a young woman meeting a middle-aged man and embarking on an intense relationship with him. As she feels him slipping away from her, she resorts to desperate measures to try & keep the relationship going, exerting her control over him.
Rather than telling the story in a linear fashion, from A to B, moments in the relationship are chopped up & scattered across the hour-long show. This is an interesting approach, and one that has worked well in other shows (Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years is a good example), but here it only serves to confuse. At times it does create a bit of curiosity about their back stories & suspense over what will happen next, but these opportunities are mostly squandered. The woman’s background is only ever alluded to, rather than expanded upon, and what would be the end to a more traditional telling of the story feels a bit premature. There seems to be no real logic to the order of the scenes; it’s hard to follow, and makes the running time feel a lot longer than it actually is.
It’s not that the story itself is a particularly complicated one, and I do think it is important to have theatre that keeps you thinking, I just don’t believe it works if you constantly have to try & work out where in the relationship they’ve reached, and why particular parts have been juxtaposed. It all seems like it’s trying to be different just for the sake of it, rather than having any special reason.
Max Dorey’s design is intriguing: a construction made entirely of different kinds of boxes. Though it looks solid, it has a very temporary feeling to it – as if it could be destroyed quite easily. Presumably this is symbolic of what the writer is trying to say about love. It also allows for the action to be played out on different levels, adding a bit of variety to proceedings.
Whilst Tia Bannon & Mark Rose do their best, it’s not enough to make the play worth watching. Bannon’s woman comes across more as a petulant child when she gets angry, and there is no real chemistry between her & Rose. He brings a down to earth quality to the man, and his passivity works well when he starts to get dominated in the relationship. However, his brief nudity seems completely unnecessary.
My verdict? A curious play that probably has a good story to tell, but is restricted by its structure – it needs a rethink as far as I’m concerned.
Abigail runs at The Bunker Theatre until 4 February 2017. Tickets are available online and from the box office.