Trafalgar Studios, London – until 3 March 2018
By an anonymous guest critic
Stephanie Jacob’s new play Again could be a traditional comedy-drama about the trials and tribulations of a family. However, Jacob employs a clever dramaturgical device as well as using flashbacks in order to tell this story of a family of four.
As the plays begins, we meet now-estranged, middle-aged parents Tom and Laura who are being reunited for a family get-together. They suffer some awkward conversation as they await the arrival of their two grown-up children – Adam, an academic and Izzy, the wilder of the two children who has not settled on her path in life.
The play repeats scenes between these characters in three different ways, which is a clever way of illustrating the choices and mistakes we make in life particularly when dealing with members of our immediate family. Interspersed between these are episodes from the family’s past, until we see them as a young family.
At just over an hour, Again packs in a lot of family history showing the different incidents and patterns of behaviour that have shaped their life together (and apart from each other). All four actors, Chris Larkin (as the father, Tom), Natasha Little (as the mother, Louise), Charles Reston (as the son, Adam) and Rosie Day (as the daughter, Izzy) do an excellent job of conveying the family’s dramas and frustrations. Director Hannah Price does well to keep the momentum of the play moving using minimal props in order keep scenes changes swift and tight. The tension in the play never sags.
The only issue is that the unconventional style and structure of the play is initially confusing and it isn’t until about twenty minutes in before I am able to fully understand how Jacob tells the story. This is a minor quibble, however.
Ultimately, one has to admire the writer for taking the risk of writing a family comedy in such an unconventional way. The style is not a gimmick, but a way of illustrating how people’s past behaviour effects them in the present. Stephanie Jacob is certainly a writer to look out for in the future.
Again runs through 3 March.