The Space, London – until 16 February 2019
James Lewis’ four-hander Feel, staged by Proforca Theatre and helmed by the company’s artistic director David Brady, is definitely worth seeing. From the moment the play begins with the soundscape of the London Underground, it feels contemporary and easily accessible.
Described as a modern-day love letter to London, Feel is about the search for inner peace, navigating relationships and trying to pursue the courage to achieve your dreams. Four adults are forced to confront their emotions on a chance meeting when, in true first-world-problem fashion, there are rail delays which set off this narrative.
Definitely worth seeing… contemporary & easily accessible
There are two couples, firstly Karen an office manager (who has put her dream of becoming a TV actress on hold) and Nick, a writer who seems reluctant to converse at first. It’s an unspoken rule never to talk to strangers, but Karen somehow manages to coerce Nick into chatting with her and they bond over the absurdities of life; including Brenda the UKIP campaigner.
Six months down the line, their relationship evolves more; but there’s that bittersweet feeling of knowing it’s not going to work out. Considering how a lot of the time the pair are sat down, Emily Costello‘s Karen and Colin Hubbard‘s Nick have a fast-paced energy to their scenes together, and I was genuinely crying with laughter. However, there are some poignant moments that showed their versatility, particularly towards the end of the play, which was not something I was expecting.
On the other hand, finance bloke Jamie is about to embark on a night of passion with Naomi, which doesn’t quite go to plan. He’s longing to be loved by someone, whereas Naomi is scared of commitment and doesn’t get attached for fear of getting hurt. I should give particular credit to the dialogue in the very funny first scene. Gabrielle Nellis-Pain as Naomi is mesmerising to watch onstage with her facial expressions and comedy timing.
Gabrielle Nellis-Pain is mesmerising
There’s a very different dynamic with this. Their relationship is complex and a lot trickier to navigate. Mental health is an issue, so topical in society today, and it’s refreshing to see such a realistic portrayal of a man struggling. Too often, men are expected to be strong and pragmatic, hiding their emotions. Not in this play.
Towards the end of Act 1, Anthony Fagan‘s Jamie delivers an honest and moving monologue, with references to Superman, that is heavily contrasted with his laddish swagger from the beginning of Feel. This moment really shone for me and director David Brady‘s decision to imbue it with a Superman colour scheme was genius.
Raw and unforgiving… the words will speak to you
Although the two pairs never meet one another, their stories are interwoven in a way that feels very natural, all played out on a minimalistic set comprising a bed, four chairs and a table.
So why should you go and see Feel? Because if, like, me, you’re a (late) twenty-something and trying to carve out a life in this beautiful city of London, then the words will speak to you. There was a part of me in every character that drew me to them. From something trivial like the spelling of your name wrong on a Starbucks cup or the feeling of constantly climbing uphill, the play is relatable on so many levels.
James Lewis’ writing is raw and unforgiving. There are some hilarious moments. There are some beautiful moments. And there are some downright ugly moments. But that’s life, isn’t it? You have to try and embrace it all. Feel as a play is a joy to watch. And Proforca Theatre is a company to watch too.