The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsole

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Caragh Aylett

at 12:59 on 7th Aug 2016

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'The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsoll' combines story telling with unique audience participation. It is an exciting and innovative new piece of theatre.

The stage is set with a wooden garden shed and other charming, homemade props. The shed opens at the beginning of the piece revealing a system of metal bars and swings which allow a ball to move across the shed and drop throughout the performance. It provides a perfect underscore to the piece being quiet and rhythmic – much like a heartbeat.

The piece is presented to the audience as a form of extended monologue. It begins with some slightly awkward conversation with the audience but Rhys Lawton, playing Gavin quickly warms up and his audience participation is natural and unimposing. The dialogue progresses to reveal a heart problem suffered by Gavin and the possibility of his sudden death. The narrative follows Gavin’s thoughts in the wake of this and his reflections on his relationship with his previous girlfriend, Ren. These scenes resonate with the audience’s own experiences of heartbreak and are both stunning and emotional.

The narrative shifts to discussions of God, depicted through clever use of humour and puppetry, before touching on the topic of suicide. This disrupts the flow of the piece and is not given the attention or sensitivity that it deserves, resulting in it adding very little to the performance, unfortunately. The message of the piece is somewhat confusing, it seems that we were being told to ‘seize the day’ whilst simultaneously being told that seizing the day is not worth doing. The motivation and focus of the piece could have been addressed more clearly.

The stylistic decisions of the piece are impressive. Before the performance the audience is fitted with a heart rate monitor which allows each person’s heart rate to be projected onto the stage. It is unique and exciting. Any worry that the company would not utilise this properly is quickly dashed; the unique ability of being able to read the audiences heart rate is referenced throughout the performance. The lead character makes decisions in the play based on the heart rate of individual audience members; it allows each performance to be different and interesting. Additionally, the use of two actors to contribute to the progression of the story is smooth and effective. Their ability to play many different characters is a testament to their acting ability and it is with swiftness and ease that they move from playing a character, to playing a prop, to briefly becoming a puppeteer. Of particular note is the poignant way in which Gavin’s heart operation is carried out through puppetry, while this could have come across as comedic, it is not. The audience is so invested in the story that this scene is emotional and breath taking.

'The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsoll' is fresh, innovative and emotional. It enraptures the audience from beginning to end and I’m sure that it will remain close to their hearts.

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