Implosion by Issy Flower is a stylistically unique show which explores the serious topic of the dissolution of a marriage in an engaging way. Beginning in the 1960s, the time period is set with old records littered around the stage and jazz played over the speakers of Caedmon. The set is simple, occupied by two black blocks and a couple items of furniture, making the focus of the show the relationship created between Maev played by Grace Brimacombe-rand and Peter played by Ollie Taylor. A clever touch was added by the numerous whiskey glasses which littered the stage by the end, reflecting Maev’s ironic reflection that all they used to do together was drink.
The main star of this show is the writing; Flower intersperses naturalistic dialogue with monologues directly addressed to the audience and fourth wall breaks. The result is a hilarious, witty and real show that builds a believable relationship between the characters as they interrupt and contradict each other. The flow of the story also feels natural, as a word used by one character will be picked up and echoed by the other in a different context to demonstrate the distance growing up between them. As an audience, we learn about how their relationship began and then fell apart as Peter struggles to admit his sexuality as a closeted gay man. This struggle was neatly worked into the plot and dynamic between the characters in a way that created audience sympathy for both characters.
Both actors create immensely rich and realistic characters in this play. Ollie Taylor as Peter does a fantastic job of balancing the snarky detachment, impulsive playfulness and sense of guilt within Peter as he embarks upon an affair with a man. His humorous tone and tendency to treat most things as a joke means the moments of sincere emotion shine through poignantly. Brimacombe-rand is just as sharp and cynical, charming and lively, never missing a chance to take a dig at Peter, but again this is balanced by her continued deep love for him. Though I felt some moments were just a touch overacted, Brimacombe-rand does a brilliant job of balancing Maev’s toughness and hidden insecurities. I particularly enjoyed the moments where she conveyed the open emotion and vulnerability of her character, such as when she asks Peter why he married her.
The two actors create a very believable relationship between the characters, navigating both the tender moments and the angry outbursts with a maintained naturalism. Some of the blocking to me felt a little static, but the sense of stasis actually helped emphasise the sense of claustrophobia both characters begin to experience in the marriage. The play shows the breakdown of the marriage yet ends on a positive note the night before Peter and Maev’s divorce takes effect with both characters drinking and talking together just like old times, the suggestion being they will maintain their friendship after the marriage is over. Indeed, the whole play has a cathartic air, as the characters finally admit to themselves and each other their own flaws and mistakes, giving them a sense of closure.
By Aimee Dickinson