I Am Yours

Sat 6th – Fri 26th August 2016

reviews

Anna Livesey

at 10:33 on 17th Aug 2016

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'I Am Yours' is a play that traces the mental deterioration of Dee, a young Canadian woman, tormented first by the “animal” in her mind and then by an unwanted pregnancy. The play is cliché, its narrative jolting, but it is not, as I initially presumed, a piece of new writing. This is a play published by Faber in 1998, although I’m still unsure of why.

At best, the play is a little hackneyed; at worst it’s downright illogical. A series of hairpin bends affect the credibility of its plotline from the first: less than two minutes after entering her son’s house to get him Christmas shopping, Pegs is listening to him explain how he once kicked a gay man to death. And the plot devolves from there.

A personal favourite moment is Dee’s failure to recognise her own sister, but this is quickly brushed under the carpet because, after all, she hasn’t seen her in a year. Evidently, playwright Judith Thomson’s preference is for drastic plotline leaps over a sustained narrative arc. Her script features such winning lines as “television has saved my life” repeated over and with emotion, in an exposition of the role of television in a lonely woman’s life.

It’s a real shame that New Celts Productions have chosen this play, because they are clearly a collective with a great deal of talent, that far outstrips their shoddy material. Acting is of a very high calibre generally, and the five work well in ensemble.

Surprisingly, given that Pegs is the play’s smallest role, I find Danielle Hogg the most compelling of the cast. It is she who inhabits her role most entirely, and makeup is unnecessary with a physicality that so convincingly conveys her age. The comedy she gives to her role is a welcome relief to the melodrama elsewhere.

Similarly, perhaps the most powerful relationship onstage comes not from Dee, but between Hana Mackenzie and Conor Mainwaring, playing her sister and her husband respectively. Whilst interactions between husband and wife have a tendency to feel inauthentic and, again, to lapse into sensationalism, Mackenzie and Mainwaring have a chemistry that feels just as important, and probably, more poignant.

Mackenzie toes a perfect line between sensuality and naivety: her sexual frustration is apparent without making her one-dimensional, and I enjoy the gradual progression of her insecurities. Equally, Mainwaring’s tenderness towards her is touching, and offers a nice antidote to his sister-in-law’s overt sexuality.

Evidently, then, these Edinburgh Napier graduates possess far more skill in their trade than Thompson does in hers. Great acting, shame about the play.

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Olivia Cormack

at 02:31 on 18th Aug 2016

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‘I Am Yours’ markets itself as a “psychological nightmare” – a nightmare yes, but more 'Eastenders' than 'Gone Girl'. In such a fast-paced and plot-heavy play, the actors are always in for a challenge; the soap opera script requires careful handling to prevent the characters from becoming one dimensional. These actors, sadly, are not up to the task: the performances range from wooden at their worst, to farcical at their best.

Perhaps I should start with the accents. Alternating between Canadian and Midwestern, the inconsistent drawls detract significantly from the subject matter of the play – it is, after all, quite difficult to take someone seriously when they sound like they’ve recently been binge-watching ‘The Real Housewives’.

While we’re on the subject of voices, I have a tip for the sound operators: the sound effects should not make it impossible to hear the actors. Yes, the sound of torrential rain is a nice break from the dodgy Americanisms, but rain shouldn’t be that loud, especially not when the characters are performing an indoor scene. And though I am initially glad of a brief respite from the “oh my gawds”, without the distraction of the horrendous accents I actually start to notice the physical acting. My notes at this point simply read: “These actors seem to think that with a frown or a wary stare they can represent any emotion – they can’t”.

The redeeming feature of this production is that it at least prompts some laughs, although considering that many of these are during the more serious scenes of the play, I’m not sure how redeeming a feature that actually is. However, Danielle Hogg gives an entertaining performance - her character is well-realised and her acting very expressive.

The set is disappointing for a show with a seemingly high budget - the Sainsbury’s squash label could, at least, have been removed from the prop bottle of red wine. The directorial decision to have actors for the next scene hover in sight at the back of the stage is to me bizarre, not adding anything as far as I can tell, and if anything becomes a distraction from the scene being performed.

This production could benefit from some workshopping with sample audiences, to figure out what works, and how to best translate some of the underlying emotions in some scenes. The actors need to work on their range of facial expressions: I get quite tired of seeing the same manic smile, or vacant gaze that Cait Irvine repeatedly employs. If she complicates Dee’s character, the play would be vastly improved.

I know the show is a lost cause when, after forty-five minutes, I begin cursing under my breath every time an actor steps on stage, because that means there is at least one more scene I have to endure. And when the actors bow, I clap out of sheer relief more than anything else.

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