WAITLESS

Sun 9th – Sat 22nd August 2015

reviews

Rowena Henley

at 09:19 on 10th Aug 2015

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Waitless was a show with real promise. It followed the story of a young New Yorker reluctantly relocated to London after her husband lands himself a new job. The performance was full of energy, but ultimately fell short of delivering any kind of captivating characters or plot developments.

Shelly (Jessica Moreno) and Trent (Andrew Boyle), the newly married lovers at the centre of our story, were the kind of couple you may spot on Facebook posting a nauseating couple selfie or an ‘it’s complicated’ update when going through a rough patch. They were, in short, incredibly annoying (whether this was the intention or not remains to be seen). Moreno was a lively performer and did a great job of keeping the show afloat, but her enthusiasm became progressively exhausting as the hour kept on. Her words were, at points, lost amongst the gabble, which caused jokes to be missed and confusion to occur.

Boyle did well in his portrayal of a distracted and over-worked business executive, but his British accent (showcased during a bizarre and disorientating cacophony of multi-roling) was truly abysmal. The performance as a whole was hindered hugely by Boyle’s poor pronunciations (think Bert from Mary Poppins), and romantic or sombre moments became somewhat comical as a result.

Pace was a fundamental flaw in Waitless. Each scene lasted no longer than three minutes, giving the audience little chance to grasp at any kind of connection to the characters or their afflictions. This show had the chance to explore some genuinely interesting themes (feminism, the mental health issues associated with loneliness, the impact of professional careers and personal dreams upon a sturdy marriage) if only the writing had allowed for it. Instead, we were served up a disjointed collection of half-formulated scenes and situations.

There were certainly redeeming factors to this performance, though. I was thoroughly entertained by Shelly’s comparison between English and American phrases, which unexpectedly managed to side-step the stereotyping that had peppered the rest of the play. An examination into the multiple interpretations of the word ‘sorry’ within the British vocabulary was intelligent, original and witty. Furthermore, the staging worked well, with a minimalist design used in inventive ways. Unfortunately, the set did collapse towards the end of the show, but to their credit, the actors soldiered on without too much flinching.

On the whole, Waitless left me unfulfilled. The story itself was devoid of any real substance or sentiment and the ending had no conclusion whatsoever.

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Simon Fearn

at 09:58 on 10th Aug 2015

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If you’re looking for something fresh and original, I’d give Waitless a miss. From American theatre company Pandelia’s Yellow Canary comes a minimalistic two-hander that runs like the blandest of culture shock comedies, but much worse.

Shelly (played slightly manically by Jessica Moreno) is torn from a comfortable life in New York by her husband’s career, and forced to make a new start in England. With her husband Trent (Andrew Boyle) growing increasingly distant, and a growing feeling of social isolation, can Shelly find happiness again?

The clichés came rolling in thick and fast. The moment Boyle enthused “you taste so good I could skip dinner”, I realised Cailin Harrison’s original script was not really going to be subtle. There was nothing new in the endless scenes of Trent neglecting Shelly in favour of business trips and innumerable phone calls. I should have shared Shelly’s frustration at the erosion of her marriage, but as the couple’s relationship was never properly developed in the first place, I found it impossible to care about either of them.

Moreno and Boyle’s characterisation also left a little to be desired. Boyle’s English accent was truly terrible when he multi-roled as Shelly’s British friend, and his attempts to be a woman were equally questionable. Moreno had plenty of energy, but her lightning-quick monologues became a little grating. Her expressive eyes failed to sweep the audience up in her struggles, and her constant excitement became a little exhausting.

The tone of the piece was all over the place, with Moreno transitioning from emotional breakdowns to jokes about the British rather jarringly. Several interesting elements were introduced only to be left underdeveloped and promptly abandoned, such as Shelly’s relationship with a potential lover and the affecting story of her friend’s lack of fulfilment.

Although the play’s raison d’etre was to laugh at the British, it is a bit lazy to base comedy around the fact that all Londoners are either snobs or cockneys. Few of the jokes about British culture were really accurate. The British people are not, as far as I know, particular about the way in which sandwiches are held, and don’t care if you say dessert or pudding, so these jokes understandably failed to earn a laugh from the audience. One thing they did get right though is the endless ways in which British people use the word ‘sorry’.

The ending of the play did redeem it slightly, with Shelly joining her husband on the (quite metaphorical) treadmill. But this did not redeem the fact that the production was neither funny nor emotionally affecting. Even the set collapsed in protest. Waitless looks like a promising play, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to its interesting poster art.

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