Lobes: A review

“Simple yet effective” – Ciara Munnelly reviews BoxedIn Theatre’s latest show.

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Logo by Oli Savage and Björn Lambrenos

Turning up at the Medical Building at 6:15 is not something I am accustomed to doing on a Wednesday evening. Yet, this is where I found myself on the Wednesday 14 March as the lab was kitted out ready for Lobes‘ second performance.

We were ushered into the canteen area to await further instruction. There were a lot of familiar faces in the audience but also some new ones. We were then walked down a long corridor into a lab which was adorned with fairy lights and had one focal point: a bed. The audience were seated around the bed on all four sides.

It was only once we were seated that I really took in my surroundings. Rather than a stage with curtains, the lab offered test tubes, a smell of cleanliness and nostalgia of chemistry lessons in secondary school.

Before the play had even started, the audience were immersed into the world of the two characters, who did not have names might I add. It seemed to be a repetitive sequence of dialogue but it took me a while to notice as I adjusted to my surroundings. Mr Savage’s influence was recognisable in the atmosphere that was created.

The play itself started and ended on a train and everything that happened in between mostly happened in the couple’s flat. As Mr. Savage said in our preview interview, the story was not a romantic piece. In fact, it was far from it. It’s hard to put this kind of piece into a box because it had elements of everything. There was comedy, but those lighthearted moments were quickly overshadowed by a very serious issue. There were moments of sadness where I could feel a lump forming in my throat as well as moments that made me want to visibly smile.

The level of intimacy that was achieved amongst the cast and crew was extremely evident. It worked like clockwork, I did not notice one technical hitch. Miss Kohli and Mr Fear were convincing as the mismatched couple and the still moments were particularly compelling whilst the audio played. The environment made me feel slightly uncomfortable for them, as they stared intensely at each other I did not really know where to look as I felt like I was disrupting a private moment. However, that is also what was so wonderful about this piece. There were often times where I would forget that I was watching a show because it all seemed to come so naturally.

The scary thing about this piece was the lack of romanticisation. It did not try and explain mental illness, it did not follow a clear structure and have a happy ending. What it did however, was bring to life some very real thoughts and very real behaviours based on our inner monologues. There were moments where I could see my own personality and thought-processes in both of the characters.

One particular directorial choice that I welcomed was how they depicted the text conversation. The use of torches to indicate a new text reminded me of those late-night conversations that you have just as you are drifting off and your phone illuminates the bedroom with a new notification. Simple yet effective.

Whether this was the intention or not, the lab setting reduced the audience to observers of a psychological case study with the characters representing the subjects. The added soundtrack of the stream of consciousness highlighted the subjectivity of memories and made me question whether the way I remember things is indeed the way that events played out.

BoxedIn Theatre didn’t disappoint and were able to stage a production unlike what I have seen before. The only thing that we will have to wait to see is how accessible this piece will be in the world outside the bubble. In St. Andrews, the number of familiar faces far outweighed the newcomers, which makes sense since the theatre scene here is a supportive community but it would be nice to see such a provocative play attract a new crowd.

I have said before that the best kind of theatre is themes that make you think. Lobes definitely did this. I cannot attribute the success solely to the writing nor to the acting or directing as if either one of these was weak, who knows how this would have changed the outcome.

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