That’s not the name of the script, it’s called And No More Shall We Part. But it is a ‘say good-bye’ play. A woman has a terminal illness and she decides to put an end to it by taking (illegally) some pills. Her husband isn’t so keen, makes a bit of a fuss; but finally gives in to the idea. This is an intimate study of their last weeks – and more particularly, on a parallel time line – their last hours together. I think Holloway is one of our most interesting playwrights, and each of the plays of his I have seen so far has been just a little bit different stylistically. I was very taken by Beyond the Neck, a meditation in the form of four soliloquies on the Port Arthur massacre – ordinary folk looking back many years later. I thought this was an incredibly moving production, directed for Belvoir by Iain Sinclair, with Holloway doing very well in get under skin of his characters. Love Me Tender was a version of the Iphigenia story from Greek mythology, directed by Matthew Lutton, also at Belvoir (with Griffin). This was a highly experimental script where the lines were not allocated to any particular characters. I thought Lutton and the cast did a brilliant job in bringing this play to life. It had great physically, was beautiful to look at, and had fantastic performances. But, in all, did not quite make sense. Well not to a lot of people who saw it. I knew the myth behind this modern version and so it was good for me. But how many among the paying public know the Iphigenia story? You did need to know the work’s mythical origins for the production to fully work. Nice try for an emerging playwright nonetheless.
Here, Holloway has gone for straight up-and-down naturalism – all the way down to the umms and ahhs. While there is much to admire about this script and Sam Strong’s thoughtful production, I don’t think Holloway quite pulls of what he attempts. They are a pretty average suburban couple, nicely played by two fine actors – Linda Cropper and Russell Kiefel – who on opening night were still working on settling their performances in. They are certain to take off over this next week and the whole experience will be a lot stronger.
The story is well organised; and carefully engineered in time and space by director Sam Strong. There are some very fine moments, as the pattern of action builds to climax and gentle resolution. It’s a slow burn and then, towards the end, the action catches fire. But Holloway loves big emotions and grand ideas. And though they are kind of there, sort of, what happens in between is barely engaging. To much trivial chit-chat – which would be fine is there was subtext. But, apart from the simple fact someone is dying, not enough lies underneath the surface of the words. ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ …. and …. ‘I had an affair once’ …. ‘yes I know I did too’ …. really doesn’t take us very far. What about …. ‘why do we live, my love’ or ‘you never loved me anyway’ …. just to toss in a couple of randoms.
I should declare my hand here. I have interviewed several GPs who, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, admitted to euthanasing quite a few patients. I know a women who used to buy the heroin for another doctor to euthanase his patients, who then used the stuff on himself. I remember several guys who I visited in their last few days before they (I knew – though they did not say) put themselves to sleep. A lot more happens in these situations, from awful to funny, that Holloway has not even begin to imagine. A play on this topic should have really knocked me around. It did not.