More something, less nothing

15 February 2008

something/ nothing, Corpus Playroom, 12-16 February, 21:30

4 stars

Reviewer Celeste Dring

The difficulty of putting on a play like Something/ Nothing, a new piece of writing by Rory Mullarkey, is striking the right balance. It aspires to be funny and sad, to say things and not say things, to inhabit two worlds simultaneously. Fortunately, Grace Jackson’s clear directorial vision does justice to the complexity of the script. The scenes of Something/ Nothing unfold with uncompromising precision, yet the much-needed subtlety remains intact.

The first part of the production is set in an airport. A woman (Alex Clatworthy) examines her camera whilst a man (Thomas Yarrow) desperately vies for a conversation with her, and eventually, they have one. The second part focuses on the development of an ambiguous relationship between a prostitute and her client. In both, humour and silence are pitted against one another. The entire production relishes in a sublime tension that grips the audience from start to finish. The humour is always threatened by the darker elements of the piece, the silence prevented from slipping into indulgent territory by the sprinkling of light, quirky moments. The weighty matters of separation and death are lifted by talk of a “gap- life” and “omniphobia”. This constant interchange between light and dark is sustained by the strength of the performances. Alex Clatworthy shows depth and vulnerability as Liza in the second story, and Thomas Yarrow vacillates with ease between the playful curiosity and the self-assured philosophising that his roles demand.

The set is minimal and this facilitates the wholly suggestive nature of the play. Five chairs give us the waiting area of the airport, and a bed lit with soft straw lighting creates the intimate setting for the lovers’ scene, the sound of rainfall and melodic chords guiding our transition from one to the other.

The fact that one story is taken much further than another, though a fault of the script, is a little bewildering. Our engagement with what is happening is temporarily hindered by confusion- we are not sure if or how we are supposed to connect the two plot lines, and are frustrated by the prospect of “starting again” a third of the way through.

However this does not undermine the production’s success in enticing and intriguing. The motives of the characters are never paraded but hinted at. Something is always left unsaid and questions remain unanswered. This encourages the all important connection between performance and audience to be made, and most importantly, allows for truly captivating viewing.