Review: The Other Line

Sian Avery 19 February 2014

In describing itself as an "undomestic drama", defining itself by what it is not, The Other Line, though largely well-acted, is a play confused with itself from the very beginning. The play struggles to focus on any one subject, be it the political significance of a dystopian future in which family planning is state-controlled, the social acceptance of homosexuality, or the class boundaries of modern society. Though a good play may well balance these simultaneously, unfortunately The Other Line did not quite succeed in addressing any one of these topics in a satisfying, or even meaningful way. This said, the acting of the small, entirely female, cast greatly helped to elevate the impact of the play under Emily Burns’ direction. Mary Galloway’s performance of the naïve, middle-class darling, Madeleine, was a particular highlight, as she provided a convincing depiction of the slightly silly, but rather loveable friend from money. Her awkward fascination with Natasha and Clare’s relationship went down well with the audience, who seemed to enjoy cringing at her distasteful jokes and embarrassed curiosity, not to mention her enthusiastic dancing through the musical intervals. Sarah Livingstone, too, deserves a mention for her consistently convincing portrayal of the somewhat sardonic long-term girlfriend of Natasha (Laura Jayne Ayres), whose ability to bring on real tears in the final scene was a welcome display of genuine acting. Another merit of the production was designer, Anna Reid’s set, which had a pleasing attention to detail and created both indoor and outdoor space.

It was a shame, then, that the audience was to leave so confused over what the play actually was, or wanted to achieve; indeed, it seemed that to finish it at the interval, rather than enter an entirely new plot of an unloving mother and returned ex-girlfriend (which seemed to contest the self-definition of "undomestic") might have been wise. In such an otherwise familiar social setting, the concepts of being "planted" and "thresholding" took a while to be understood by the audience, as the women discussed state family planning in this alternative society. The notion of this central control had great potential for a play in an age in which we must be increasingly aware of overpopulation; however, the plot became distracted with other matters without fully exploring these ideas. This, alongside the sometimes tiresome arguments and few technical faults, somewhat marred the conceptual and acting potential.