Tristan Bates, London – until 5 May 2018
Despite the strong performances and production itself, The Gulf as a play meanders with no real sense of purpose or direction.
Making its European premiere, Audrey Cefaly’s The Gulf is, unfortunately, an extremely frustrating watch with little for the audience to react to as two women confront the gulf in their relationship, with conversations becoming circular and no sense of resolution.
It is a great shame as the quality of Matthew Gould’s production is high, particularly drawing out two raw and emotionally engaging performances from Louisa Lytton and Anna Acton who thrash out their character’s differences and flaws with great gusto. But the audience also needs a sense that they are watching these two women for a purpose with a real story to engage with which The Gulf lacks.
Yes, it is an exploration of how relationships can be tricky no matter what their sexuality but it never feels as though The Gulf tells the audience anything that they didn’t know. It is made clear that Kendra (Lytton) and Betty (Acton) are both in a toxic relationship that neither have the strength to leave – and the situation is never quite fully resolved by the end.
What makes it even more frustrating is the way in which the piece relies on long silences which don’t seem to make an impact as there is no reason for them, no situation to create tension for. It also means that the pace slows down and while this adds to the quiet and reflective nature of the piece, it can also make the show feel longer than it should.
However, Gould’s production suitably draws out all of the emotion and rawness of the characters as they each push each other to their limits that allow the audience to really feel for both Kendra and Betty. This is much to the credit of both Lytton and Acton who highlight the differences of both characters to great effect, while also showcasing their vulnerability perfectly hidden under the surface of the bravado and swagger of one and the overwhelming positivity of the other.
Sadly, it is the quality of the writing that lets The Gulf down and leaves the audience feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. Disappointing.