A heartbeat keeps time throughout this piece, acting as a metronome against ex-lovers Alex (Iskandar Sharazuddin) and Nancy (Essie Barrow)’s movement. They retrace steps, relive past hurt and move towards some semblance of closure in this dissection of a break-up ten years earlier.
Sharazuddin’s script is playful when depicting the pair’s meet-cute: they’re arguing over a broken heart, namely a pig’s in sixth form biology. Barrow and Sharazuddin instantly conjure up a chemistry that feels warm and earned, even mingling that attraction with the well-won animosity they show one another in the present-day. The couple’s been through an unwanted pregnancy, infidelity and some very questionable puns so the performers do well to reflect the strength of the central romance, at times more effectively than the dialogue can achieve.
Eleanor Bull’s set design is minimal: two chairs, a few projections to distinguish any time-shifts in scene transitions. By keeping the stage so bare, the physical theatre packs a stronger punch. The two performers entwine each other one moment, push away the next. These movements are deft and slick, the crowning achievement of the show. Alongside this choreography the script ably follows suit for the most part, but stumbles in the middle act.
Take the younger Nancy’s monologue on Margaret Thatcher. The teen’s studying the winter of discontent and at first her admission that she thinks the Iron Lady is quite admirable feels out of place. What is Sharazuddin saying by having Nancy assess Thatcher sympathetically? At best it’s an offer at judging women less harshly, but this “backwards and in heels” approach at feminism feels half-baked. At worst, it frames Nancy as a cold and unfeeling woman, which in light of her reaction to becoming pregnant borders on demonising her autonomy. This feels at odds with the show’s take on pre-natal depression and muddies the show’s overall social stance.
The flashback traumas overall feel stuffed with capital-I Issues, especially the late introduction of Alex’ infidelity. This feels as if it’s been added to balance the scales after Nancy’s been painted every shade of grey under the roof of B&Q. However, it doesn’t marry to Alex’ later constancy: his present-day self feels incapable of such a move. It’s an interesting show of his growth but the little sign-posting around this instant in the first place makes it a muted addition to a show that can stand up unhindered without it.
This is a first outing for Ellandar and as a debut shows real promise: Barrow and Sahrazuddin give strong, grounded performances and carry a believable story about love, loss and acceptance. Their script doesn’t do these two justice: it’s strong on the small, funny moments but goes too hard on melodrama to create a credible bigger picture.
Post-mortem is on at Assembly until 26th August, as part of the 2019 Edinburgh fringe. More info and tickets here.