This review will consider Tinder Trilogy, a play written by Annie Jenkins, directed by Lucy McCann and performed at Theatre503.
I shall first start with the writing. This play uses a very particular narrative type to detail the personal sufferings of three characters, Geri (Mollie Macpherson), Beth (Jonna Blode Hanno) and George (Tiegan Byrne). This suffering, a niggling annoyance, frustration or deep-rooted fear, becomes characteristic of the play, giving it a clear and coherent subject matter. However, this suffering contrasted greatly with the comedic tone of the performance, which made for a potent stylistic disconnect. My biggest issue with this performance, however, is that its connection with Tinder is very vague and, actually, rather omittable. All of the action could have transpired without it, and so I question its significance but also the real crux of what exactly is uniting all of these characters together. Understanding Tinder’s significance almost equated awaiting a dissatisfying name drop.
I felt that there were not enough variations in the writing style to distinguish characters from one another successfully. This distinctness came across, rather, in characterisation (which I shall write on later). The frenetic and discontinuous quality of the writing related them all in such a way that all three characters were dealing with their issues in the exact same manner, denying their feelings at first, being overwhelmed by irrelevant or less important details, then having a type of breakdown at the end. One example of how this writing style united all characters under one voice is in their description of specific items: Geri explaining Tamagotchis, Beth relating another girl’s annoying descriptions of clothes, and George describing her pasty. All characters at one point turned into this high-energy, commercial-like persona, creating too much similarity between their humour types.
Lesbianism, veganism and drug use also became recurrent subjects in this play, which I would be very careful about. Oftentimes, such topics are used to add a quick sense of comedy to humour an audience or an opinion to texturise a character, but this is to the detriment of these topics, and this was definitely the case for this performance. This play consistently used suchlike groups as the focal point of its monologues, making bold claims and statements without using any other tangible or concrete information to cohere these with the play. Even if a character is lesbian herself, or if the character is infatuated by a friend who is a lesbian, this does not give them a license to talk about lesbianism in such a singular, ‘objective’ way. Without self-contradiction of the characters, or without other informations in the play which express the inexactitude or false opinions of the characters, these lines become politically charged, not only naturalised within the world of the play but also in the performance space it inhabits. Ignoring the significance of the politics behind this, however, there is also the issue that this makes the characters too dense to unpack in such little amount of time: who are they stating these opinions for? Who are they representing? Who is meant to be enthused/entertained by these? And why are ALL of the characters doing drugs, anyway? And so casually…
Though the writing was rather questionable and monotonous, it still contained some very good techniques for producing character. In themselves, all monologues were packed with allusions, distractions and conflicting emotions and opinions, making for dynamic, realistic and complex-seeming characters. For such a short exposure, this is very successful. The way items symbolised the text was also engaging, e.g. Geri’s Tamagotchi symbolic of her duty of care to her unborn child, and George’s pasty signifying her desire for peace where impossible due to external forces.
The acting really lifted this writing off of the page, adding interest and intrigue. Despite the similar writing styles for their characters, actors were able to personalise the text well and to accentuate distinct differences between each other. This was particularly the case for Blode Hanno’s loveable character, Beth. There were elements of all actors’ characterisations, however, that were too exaggerative. This was primarily a problem of physicality. Macpherson’s reaches towards the audience, Blode Hanno’s nose-brushing, and Byrne’s hyperventilation…these were all too energised and dramatic, rendering them caricaturistic where realism is most effective for a play like this. Byrne’s hyperventilation was also incongruous with her pissy, standoffish character (but this is more of an editorial or directorial issue).
Macpherson suffered from a lack of realism, her mood changes seeming much too preempted and stiff. Her energy, on the other hand, was incontestable. Similarly, Blode Hanno and Byrne kept a high level of energy throughout, though I would be wary about how pace might compromise Byrne’s voice work. Often, her voices for her own character and the character of Bea blended into one another. Her silent munching at the beginning of her monologue, however, was hilarious. A wonderful decision that broke up an otherwise very dialogue-heavy play and gave audience members a moment of repose.
Having the actors confined to their individual platforms, unable to move, was a good idea. However, I am not so sure about the use of wooden crates to create this platform. Similarly, whilst I feel that some poses did not represent the characters well, having the actors pose in tableaux during the others’ monologues was an excellent decision. Anything else would have made for too hectic a visual, especially with the objects (books, wrappers, bags, toys, etc.) already overwhelming the floor. I should also note here that as this set (designed by Sierra Martin) is clearly composed of remnants from a millennial childhood, these were really only pertinent to Geri’s story which had a greater youthful quality to it. The other two characters remained firmly in the present, with only one or two mentions of childhood experiences.
There were technical difficulties on the night I saw the performance, and so I cannot conclusively comment on sound (designed by Charli Hurford, along with lighting). However, from what I could gather, each character has an accompanying audio. Whilst this could add tone and structure, nothing suffered from the absence of sound, for me. In fact, when ‘All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey came on, I found it both distracting from George’s emotions in its jolly campness — again, the suffering is usurped by comedy here — and incongruous with her character. Lighting (operated by Robyn Bedford), on the other hand, was sharp and facilitative. The silhouettes upon the silent actors were beautiful and well conceived. Lighting fluidly veered focus between the characters, although, with the fade at the beginning, it is better to fade up to a different lighting state.