“Hi Anna, I’m not dead. I’m in Greenwich.” This new piece by The Frequency D’ici takes place in the wake of a natural disaster, a tsunami that has devastated London. This gives it an immediate topicality, but the play turns out to be more ambiguous – and frustrating – than the initial premise suggests.
Stranded together in a flat above the water-line, Jensen (Tom Frankland) and Ali (Sebastien Lawson) do their best to escape external and uncontrollable forces. By donning surfing shorts and playing about with skateboards, they create a bubble for themselves; they retreat into adolescence and reject the outside world. This is reinforced by their symbolic tearing up of money, they are rejecting social pressure and expectation and opting instead for a Robinson Crusoe-esque existence together.
As their friendship blossoms, the audience realises that there’s more to the situation than is initially apparent. Both men have troubles in their lives, relationship pressures and family expectations that they’re reluctant to deal with; they both yearn to be free – to ride the waves – and they struggle with the restrictions which life places on them.
Despite the interesting way the piece develops, some genuinely touching moments between the two and the strikingly designed set by James Lewis, the writing and delivery often let it down. The dialogue is at times clumsy and unconvincing, and the shifting dynamic between the characters feels, perhaps intentionally, stilted, making it hard to sympathise or connect with them. Even Jensen’s decision to return to the world, and to his pregnant girlfriend, is oddly emotionless; in a similar way Ali’s decision to attempt to reconnect with his family should be the poignant highlight of the piece, but his lack of development as a character make it difficult to empathise much with him or his situation. Both characters came across as stock types, as directionless thirty-somethings who are terrified to commit and to grow up, to accept their responsibilities. There were moments when they transcended these roles and the piece offered something more, but they also felt underdeveloped.
Both Frankland and Lawson give very energetic performances and Jamie Wood’s interesting and very physical staging has them climbing over (and into) the furniture, hanging off the light fittings, and clambering up the shelves; unfortunately for all these moments of invention and playfulness, there is something lacking in the piece as a whole.