Unrelated at the Drayton Theatre
Up a back stairway leading from Earl’s Court’s grandiose pub the Drayton Arms, Unrelated is an uncomfortable reminder of middle-class hypocrisy. This intelligently scripted piece of realism is exhausting to watch, but undeniably thought-provoking.
The play is primarily set out with two different time sequences occurring simultaneously on stage. Annie, a poised and somewhat pious wife, exists in the later time at her middle-class home with candles lit over photos of holidays with her imprisoned husband, to stage right. Jean (AKA Lucy) lives an entirely converse existence: a prostitute, she plays out her earlier affair with Annie’s husband to stage left, as Annie suffers a slow and gruelling breakdown. This is the most successful aspect of the play – as Annie vociferously defends her husband from the accusation that he killed Jean, as Jean purrs to his strokes at the other side of the room.
What lets the production down is that it’s hard to relate to any of the most interesting characters. Jean’s characterisation is seamless, but it’s obvious too: she’s a bolshy Belle du Jour hiding a softer side. Annie is too ridiculous to really sympathise with: her breakdown is underlined by her hair falling out in a mess of frizz, she talks about how, unlike the children of women like Jean, her children will grow up to be inspiring individuals who “take a gap year in Africa to build a library, and feel comfortable around people of colour”.
Nevertheless, the stress of the play powerfully infects the audience – we’ve seen these situations before so they are real and haunting. The image of the man who has lost his manhood and tries to take it back by paying for sex; the woman who plays out her abusive childhood in her marriage, always protecting the man who hurts her. The effect is successful because we know these people, and this is the disturbing message behind Unrelated.
Unrelated is at the Drayton Theatre until 26th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.