by Laura Kressly
A young woman unceremoniously returns to her family home, where her dad watches cooking shows on repeat and listens to battered cassettes on a boom box that’s probably older than she is. She looks worn and fatigued, though promises she’ll only be there as long as it takes her to get back on her feet. He doesn’t really listen.
This is the start of another sad cycle for this pair of broken people who can’t communicate with each other, where daily life has little variation and the world largely continues on without them. She in particular is often tense and frustrated, though they are both prone to eruptions of irritability they direct at each other, but stem from dissatisfaction with themselves. It’s a painfully recognisable, human phenomenon.
Scenes are short and repetitive; whilst this dramaturgy emphasises their struggles it can feel flat with little scope for narrative progression. Their relationship is burdened with keeping things interesting, which is more successful in moments of intimacy or tension. Fortunately, performances by Nigel Barrett and Sophie Melville are excellent throughout.
This play supposedly deals with the cycles of addiction and whilst it is undoubtedly cyclical in nature, addiction is significantly less obvious. There are a few fleeting clues hinting at something bigger going on – namely the meetings that Sophie’s character mentions going to – but it’s never openly or clearly addressed. How quintessentially British.
Though this isn’t a bad play at all, it’s small. That smallness has the capacity to resonate with individuals who are struggling to come to terms with the hand they’ve been dealt but it’s short on profundity, bigger issues and the devastation they can cause.
Pops runs through 25 August.
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