With the glow of phone screens and the plink of notifications, Eve Nicol’s One Life Stand is about contemporary intimacy in our screen-centric age. Her thrilling three-character gig theatre piece looks at the challenges of speaking honestly with those closest to you while finding temporary solace in strangers. The echoes of painful disconnection get sung out or strummed electric in this music-driven show.
Kat (Tanya Loretta Dee) and Kit (Edward Cole) have been together for four years. Kat is desperate for a promotion at the digital agency she works for. Kit is trying to just stay busy as a bike delivery guy. They’re not having sex any more. They aren’t communicating like they used to. Momo (Anna Mitchelson) is a school girl who’s out for the night who comes across both Kat and Kit.
Nicol lets these characters reveal themselves through their digital lives: from porn addiction, to sliding into someone’s DMs with an eggplant, to posting sex tapes online. When Kat asks Kit, “You jealous of my phone?” it’s not a ridiculous thing to say. The more we build intimate relationships through a glowing blue screen, the more the object takes on a life of its own.
Momo is more astute at living in this digital universe. She’s building a look and a brand. She’s aware of its power. She’s in control of herself, or so she thinks. Kat and Kit, being a bit older, are fumbling more in this space. They see its limitations. They feel the emptiness at the edges of it. They are happy to get lost in the fantasy but they also know the bubble will burst and reality will creep back in.
The energetic production by Paul Smith throbs and pulses. The three characters trade off narration and song duty in turns. The fragmented nature of these lives lived digitally fits well within the gig theatre format. Rather than full songs or musical numbers per se, there are musical moments created by James Frewer and Honeyblood, which rise and fall with the characters. They express fear, want, desire, and need on stage so the music spills organically from that with lyrics like:
All three characters are chasing things they want but each approaches the hunt differently. Kit is painfully aware of his lack of courage. Cole plays him with hangdog shame and hunched shoulders. Cole makes Kit’s contemplation of his own tentativeness hard to watch (in a good way). His cringes become ours. He cannot seem to unwind his mistakes. Every corner he cuts leads to further setbacks. He’s Sisyphus with a shitty cell phone, a porn addiction, and maybe a gentle heart.
Naturally when he encounters Momo he’s in awe. She is proud, defiant and open. She’s free of shame. Mitchelson has a radiance and a haunting voice. Even with a surly teenager’s pout, she’s quite magnetic. Her Momo is a fighter and refuses to be backed into a corner. She’s all the things Kit is not.
Whereas when Kat encounters Momo, it’s with a very different lens. They may have fought similar battles in the past but Momo seems to shrink a little in Kat’s presence. Is it age? Is it something more? Dee brings a harder, more solid adult confidence to Kat that comes from somewhere deeper than Momo’s.
This night, Kat is seeing her future slipping away. She’s aware of the problems between her and Kit. But she too is struggling how to get this all out of her head.
Thanks to strong writing and great performances, these characters all feel very much alive: such that you could wander out onto the streets of Edinburgh and find their local equivalents, riding the bus, delivering pizzas, and filling their IG with perfect selfies.
Nicol’s approach is with great kindness and lack of judgment. We can see shades of our own imperfections, failures, and conflicts in them. While there are laughs and colorful incidents, it’s the human hurt that lingers. Like a Saturday night that doesn’t go the way you want it, this play ends up weighing heavy on your heart. It’s not easily shaken.
One Life Stand is on until 26 August 2018 at Summerhall. Click here for more details.