Wednesday, 8 November 2017
Tim Gopsill admires a drama where a divorced couple comes together over the grave of a child, but he finally cannot warm to the play.
by Lot Vekemans
Translated by Rena Vergano
Love And Other Toxins
A middle-aged couple, a woman and man, meet up after nearly a decade of separation which started shortly after their son died.
The man is known only as "He", the woman as "She".
“We are a man and a woman who lost a son, and then each other,” he says to her. “Who lost a son and then themselves and then each other,” she corrects.
He assents, which is the only thing they can agree on as they take their faltering steps to rebuild their love.
Poison is an 80-minute two-hander, examing the fall out of a marriage break up, acted with precision by Claire Price, a blonde sarky ex-wife and Zubin Varla as the husband who previously walked out on her.
The couple find themselves in a reception room of the cemetery where their young son is buried. The discovery of toxic chemicals in the ground are now disturbing his supposedly final resting place.
The young boy's remains, along with those of others, have to be exhumed and reinterred and his parents have arrived to discuss the situation with cemetery officials.
This is, literally, the poison in the title – but the residue of suffering that killed their love is the real poison in the play itself
Written by Dutch writer Lot Vekemans with English translation by Rena Vergano, Poison has been an international success, playing in many languages all over the world, including New York, Berlin and, of course, The Netherlands.
It's concise and focussed, consisting solely of the conversation between the former spouses,
Simon Daw's set is minimal: two upholstered benches, a coffee machine and a water cooler with mostly full-on lighting from Mark Doubleday.
The drama is driven solely by the two former partners' painful conversation, although there is a possible deception involved.
The only movement comes from the couple’s desperate gestures, but Paul Miller’s direction maintains the tension – relieved now and then by the odd nervous laugh.
There's probably a lot of truth in the reactions. The ending, when it comes, has an inevitability, yet beforehand hadn't seemed certain.
This would make be a wonderful radio play with listeners forming their own picture of the couple in anguish.
However, despite the fine, detailed acting, it is also repetitive, with, deliberately, the same verbal and physical expressions repeated, and it does become tedious and distancing.
As a chronicle of unrelieved grief, it could have torn the heart, but in the end it gets an amber light.