LAGO Theatre‘s latest play (written by Jack West) has just begun a short run at Covent Garden’s Tristan Bates Theatre. The company is made up of LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) graduates, and have previously produced a couple of other plays: Revelation 1:18 and No Help Sent.
Mark and Sam, former partners, are embarking on their second first date: a quiet night in with a couple of bottles of wine. It’s clear from the off that there is an awkwardness and tension between them, which starts to flare up into arguments – that’s when the truth behind their breakup and slightly frosty relations comes tumbling out. Sam (now a big-time film actress) had an abortion, and Mark left her when she finally told him. Since then he has been working as a supply teacher rather than pursuing his dream of being a writer, not allowing himself to live as he’s haunted by the life they could have had together. Can Mark get past it to give their relationship another try?
In Wine, West has come up with an interesting hour of theatre; at times laugh-out-loud funny, but also heartbreaking and provocative. It is cleverly put together, slowly teasing out the couple’s history, building up to the explosive reveal – this puts everything into context, and it all starts to make sense. The only thing nagging at me is the timeline of events; it seems as though they broke up 12 months ago, but later on Sam reveals that their child would be one year & two months old by now. Is this a slight miscalculation, or did Sam wait for a considerable amount of time before telling Mark? It’s a detail that can definitely colour your perception of a character.
It is fascinating to see a pro-life stance portrayed in this way. The experience has turned Mark to his own idea of faith, as he sees heaven (or some other form of afterlife) as the only place where he’ll be able to meet what would’ve been his child – he was oddly convinced it was a girl (as he was her father he somehow knew), though Sam reveals that it was in fact a boy. The emotive language Mark uses (such as the baby being “killed”) shows his continuing grief, but is also recognisable as the typical pro-life argument. As an ardent pro-choice advocate myself, this isn’t going to change my mind at all, though Sam’s morals do seem a bit questionable – and her lack of communication with Mark is really the key thing here.
This two-hander is carried extremely well by Joshua Glenister and Harriet Clarke. They both easily capture the sense of history between their characters, and find great humour in their shared awkwardness. Glenister, in particular, excels here – namely in his hurried preparation of the flat for their date when he gets in from work, which is full of great visual comedy. Clarke is great at delivering Sam’s frequent barbed comments (“I don’t think I could be here without wine” is a good example), keeping her emotions under check for the most part.
My verdict? An intriguing piece of new writing, bravely exploring the pro-life argument – a pair of terrific performances keep driving the action forward.
Wine runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 13 January 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.