Untranslatable, The Space Arts Centre - Review

© Sam Elwin

Devised by Laura Douglas and Matthew Graham and directed by Lilac Yosiphan of Althea Thearte, Untranslatable charts the peaks and troughs of couple from their halcyon days to their mature relationship. Structured as a series of vignettes, the forward momentum of Untranslatable is occasionally punctuated by the ringing of their landline phone – a symbol that escalates in frequency as the play progresses and the upheavals of life become more frequent.

The way Douglas and Graham initially talk about the minituae of life and love, and everything that means echoes the relationship of Celine and Jesse in Richard Linklater's film Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. 'She' is superstitious, a dreamer, looking at the word she would like to be, rather than as it really is. 'He', meanwhile, is pragmatic, prone to sarcasm and able to articulate his feelings – even if they are not exactly what 'she' wants to hear. Together they complement each other, filling the emotional gaps that the other lacks.

One of the play's strengths is its candid dialogue, which adds spice to the proceedings and suggests the conversation could go anywhere.

As a theatrical piece that deals with relationships, Untranslatable did remind me at times of the play Every Seven Years. But while that play ran completely in chronological order at specific intervals, Untranslatable has the confidence to jump back and forth in time and take a closer look at language as a means articulating emotions and concepts that one knows, yet seldom ponder on.

In recent years. two-handed plays about couples and relationships have been de rigueur, all trying to say something about the human condition. Untranslatable has the distinction of following its own path and attempting to decipher the wisdom that only time and experience can impart.

© Michael Davis 2016

Untranslatable runs at the Space Arts Centre until 13th August 2016.


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