Elastic Bridge Keeps The Tension To The End
Funny, sad and frightening: Penny Flood reviews the latest production at The Tabard
Elastic Bridge at the Tabard is a change from the delight of Peanuts and Cinderella at our local theatre gem. This one’s about suicide – three young people who go to a bridge to jump off it. It’s good, experimental pub theatre with a smashing cast in Andrew Draper (Alex), Rosie MacPherson (Sylvia) and John James Tomlinson (Kurt)
This is the first production from a young company called Strawberry Blonde Curls, whose aim is to produce theatre that everyone can enjoy through well developed characters that you can related to, and they almost achieve that with Elastic Bridge.
The many ideas in this play were the outcome of character-based improvisation - a strength and a weakness. A strength because the input of ideas from enthusiastic actors give it dynamism; a weakness because this is a difficult subject and all those ideas need sharper writing and tighter direction to hold them together. Still, it’s funny and sad in equal measure, with a shocking and downright scary ending.
The play starts with Alex alone on the bridge and the voice of a radio DJ interrupting asking any witnesses to the ‘strange’ events of last night to report what they saw to Chiswick police, then she goes back to her music.
Alex is then joined by Sylvia and Kurt. All three are there to kill themselves. That they’re all there at the same time is a coincidence. But there they are, and they start to talk to each other about what’s brought them there, but at first they struggle with the truth. Quiet, thoughtful Alex says he’s there to take photos. Actress (and drama queen) Sylvia says she’s there to rehearse her lines. Moody Kurt doesn’t deny anything and makes no excuses. But he offers everyone a chocolate éclair.
As they all chew they start to pick the toffee out of their teeth (chocolate éclairs do that to you). It’s funny to see people who are about the end it all worrying about their dental hygiene. This is typical of the quirky humour that punctuates the drama. Time passes and the final awful moments are postponed as they bicker, flirt and play silly games during which time they start to bond. A glorious sunset, thanks to some clever lighting effects (well done Tabard) gives Sylvia the platform she craves. She makes the most of the moment and Alex snaps away with his virtual camera. It takes the awkward, mysterious Kurt to say something negative and spoil it.
Bit by bit they open up to reveal what it is that has driven them to this. This is achieved through a lot of soul searching on the bridge, and a series of dramatic vignettes. It is these interludes that don’t really work as they break the action and the tension. The three characters are strong and believable, and it would have been better if they’d stayed on the bridge where they could have unravelled their lives through talking, squabbling and challenging themselves and each other as their masks slip to expose their wounds.
However, despite such shortcomings, I believe it is well worth the trip to see Elastic Bridge, particularly if you like to see new writing experimenting with strong emotions and ideas. And you’ll be glad it’s pub theatre because after that ending you’ll need a drink.
February 3, 2012