Thinking of You

Thu 2nd – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Julia Chapman

at 09:35 on 3rd Aug 2012

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Tales of dysfunctional families can wear thin very easily, with stories frustrating audiences more than entertaining them. 'Thinking of You' was, at times, somewhat infuriating, but this was not due to a lack of talent but predominantly because so much was left unexplained.

Jumping between various points in time in the life of a generic family, 'Thinking of You' provided absolutely no context in what seemed like an attempt to represent the ‘any-family’. As a result, however, it was extremely difficult to feel any interest in the characters; the only character that was in any way compelling was one who wasn’t a member of the family.

This was redeemed somewhat by the abundant skill of the performers. Claire Juliette played both the unnamed, seemingly ageless daughter of the family as well as the sole non-family member, a woman who saves the delusional mother from wandering the streets. Juliette was exceptionally competent in both roles, particularly as the woman who temporarily takes in the mother, a segment which she sustained single-handedly with a superbly rendered monologue. Her stage presence and storytelling ability filled the tiny venue with character. Her emotion was always palpable and sympathy could only be felt for her character.

During one irritating phone call in which the endlessly exasperating mother calls the father, who has since left her in the middle of the night, she tells her ex-husband about her own mother at the age of ninety. The old woman described her life as feeling as brief as a breath of air, and the mother despairs at such feeling of brevity.

The various ‘life is short’ moments in 'Thinking of You', which consisted of perpetual references to being stuck on a sofa and the sound of a ticking clock between scenes, were surprisingly subtle. Despite this, it was impossible to understand why the family so desperately clung to their dysfunction, because it was never explicated.

Thought-provoking at times, and certainly mind-bending, 'Thinking of You' inevitably fell short of achieving potency by relying too heavily on unclear gimmicks. One character lamented: ‘Life now seems like a long day without emotion’, and 'Thinking of You' was somewhat similar.

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Bridget Wynne Willson

at 09:41 on 3rd Aug 2012

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Knot Theory’s “Thinking of You” is a disorientating and affecting play about a dysfunctional family. The family are messed up in a way that most will hopefully find difficult to comprehend. You may also find the unconventional format a little tricky; we are thrust into the midst of the conflict, unsure as to what has led to the tension and hostility apparent between the family members. Certain events, such as the “trip” taken by the father figure - ‘Man’, played by Richard Banks - provide a point of reference for deducing where in the action we find ourselves. Nevertheless, audience perspective is skewed throughout the performance and the distinction between reality and fiction is blurred. Some viewers may perceive it as the perplexity one finds in comprehending ‘family’; it is not a conclusion reached through the understanding of causes and effects, but rather the sum of a mass of memories and experiences that may not be understood in chronological order. Others may find such a pretentious interpretation tedious and will disagree entirely.

The performances by the four-strong cast were truly impressive, which was the ultimate success of a play that was not, due to the dramatic conventions applied, coherent enough to be driven by plot alone. The mother, defined in the programme just as ‘Woman’ – prompting questions about her maternal identity - is played by Geraldine Brennan to great effect. She infuriates all other characters with her lack of consideration and apparent insanity and gives an utterly convincing performance. Banks in the role of ‘Man’ delivers a solid portrait of an inadequate father and showcases his ability to do so in a variety of situations. Theo Ancient and Claire Juliette, in the roles of ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’, were also very convincing and gave believable representations of complex characters. Juliette in particular provided many of the play’s most intense moments.

Confronted with limited stage space and technical shortcomings, the cast dealt well with the room provided and this had only a minor impact upon the audience’s enjoyment of the play. Lighting was neither impressive nor ambitious and a possible improvement for future performances could be the introduction of contrasting mood lighting in order to distinguish the chronology of the plot, as the confusing format contributed to a bewildering audience experience. This perplexing feature of “Thinking of You” may not suit all tastes and could create a Marmite effect amongst viewers; even so, the play leaves one feeling puzzled about what has just taken place and will no doubt trigger debate about the performance and its meaning.

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