Updated: Nov 3, 2019
Haze fills a room run with red and blue wires, streaming into big industrial light bulbs. It’s like looking inside a mind. Two actors sway shoulder to shoulder, encaged by a fluorescent blue rectangle of light. As the audience fills in the pair laugh and chat, nuzzling head to head. The chemistry between the pair is clear from the start, and it only intensifies as the play goes on. It is a romantics dream.
The main lights go down and a florescent blue crackles and fizzes around the pair in
the dark. We are soon introduced to Jamie (James Mear) and Steph (Caoimhe
Farren) – “the maniac and depressive” – who first lock eyes at their psychiatrist’s
office. Steph suffers from chronic depression and Jamie suffers from unipolar
mania – a mental illness where someone experiences mania, whilst rarely
experiencing depression. The pair soon bond over common ground, and their love
story is hurled into motion. But what starts off as an idealist love story, soon spirals
into a battle of emotions and self-sabotage. The play explores the rollercoaster ride
of having a mental illness whilst trying to juggle your job and keep a stable
relationship at the same time. It is not an easy journey for the pair.
The connection between Jamie and Steph is electrifying, as the audience hang on to
their every breath, delving deeper into the relationship of the two characters. Their
acting is strong, and their transitions are slick, complimented by Rachel Sampley's beautiful and atmospheric lighting design.
After a prolonged climatic ending, the audience leave shaken and teary. I leave feeling slightly more informed yet question what it took to get there, and whether all of it was necessary. The play seems to take a downward spiral on itself, as ethics and morals initially laid out are reversed. The ending provides us with some final statistics, in the heart of a tragic end, which I felt desensitised me from the couple's situation. The play could benefit from concluding with Steph’s metaphorical end, as the content soon turns questionably insensitive.
Overall the play was entertaining and aesthetically pleasing to watch, breaking the
intensity of the content through subtle comedy and romance. Jacob Marx Rice's
writing does well to tackle such issues, but falls short at the very end, after being so strong and fluid throughout.
You can catch Chemistry at the Finborough Theatre until 23 rd November. Tickets are available here:
Review by Amy Mawer