David’s lower-class, Marion’s upper-class, but they’ve met in the middle-class and built a life together, bravely navigating their way through a wilderness of Ikea bathroom cabinets, six quid wine from Tescos and terrifying life decisions. DryWrite is a theatre company that challenge writers to write to briefs. These are sometimes whimsical (“The Mob: how do you make an audience heckle?”) and often provocative (“Funny, not Funny: how do you make an audience uncomfortable about the fact that they’re laughing.”) For Mydidae, their first full-length commission, they invited the BAFTA award-winning writer Jack Thorne to write about privacy and intimacy by challenging him to pen a play for a man and a woman set entirely in a bathroom.
In modern bathroom scenes, thanks to Psycho, if someone walks into the WC, Surprise! They’re dead. This tradition of deliciously seedy bathroom scenes dates as far back as the Greek myths. King Minos was boiled to death like a potato in his bath. Clytemnestra whacked her husband whilst he was soaking in the tub. Greek TragedyTM is no bubble bath. Mydidae (has a greek ring to it, don’t you think?) takes a fresh look at the hallmarks of tragedy, whilst telling a different story for a different century. In Mydidae the characters don’t kill each other, they just make each other feel murderously guilty.
The calling card of TragedyTM is the emotional release at the end of the play when conflicts are resolved, villains exposed and the bodies buried. But Mydidae’s ambiguous final scene offers no such release, suggesting that, in relationships held together by fear, guilt and despair, perhaps everyone is both a villain and a victim.
Marion and David do exactly what we wish they wouldn’t. They floss, pee and self-destruct right in front of us, slicing through the jugular of relationship boundaries by speaking the unspeakable and doing the unthinkable. They are devastatingly funny and infuriatingly glib about their own pain. They stay put in their bathroom-cum-torture-chamber when, really, shouldn’t they be running for their lives?
The performances from Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Keir Charles are visceral and mesmerising. They have an electric rapport that gives weight to the gravity of their characters’ situation, without laying it on too thick. Vicky Jones’s restrained production uses a firmly realistic setting that allows us to voyeuristically analyse the action, like intellectual perverts at an emotional peepshow. It’s rare that a play can be described as sordid and sublime, but Mydidae is both.
We’ve done a little interview with Jack Thorne and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose company, DryWrite commissioned Mydidae.
Mydidae is on at the Soho Theatre until the 22 December 2012. For more information [click here]
Words by Jennifer Lee & photos by Simon Annand.