The Other Half at the Rose and Crown Theatre
The Other Half is up a narrow flight of stairs in an attic theatre. Directed by Tom Radcliffe, it’s an honest and thought-provoking piece revealing the delicate intricacies of modern human relationships.
The set design is simple, with a kitchenette and table for the interior, and a bench representing the outside. The sound of traffic outside the pub creates a feeling of being outdoors, which works in the play’s favour. Stan appears, dressed casually. His way of staring at us is disconcerting, but creates intriguing intimacy. He is apathetic about life, ready to give up.
We see a tired woman, Harry, at her kitchen table. She suffers from OCD and agoraphobia, and it’s challenging to witness her rituals. Her brother Greg enters, walking only on the mats. Harry tentatively ventures to go outside, but finds difficulty in even passing the threshold. Though there are serious themes of compulsion and anxiety, some light moments are interspersed throughout dialogue, when she worries about collapsing and “shitting” herself. They battle with emotions, the scene becoming increasingly hard to observe, yet simultaneously compelling. The anxiety Harry suffers is unmistakable, and produces a deep empathy, in particular when Greg lunges at her to grab the bleach she washes her hands with and she responds, “This is not a switch I can just turn off”. Later a clever role reversal sees Greg hesitant to leave the flat, while she counts down, as he did for her.
The following act depicts the relationship between young couple Ryan and Alice, who are struggling with an abortion. Ryan is possessive, upset that Alice visited a counsellor without him knowing. His controlling behaviour borders on physical violence at one point when he almost strangles her, the tension creating an unsettling fear in the audience. A strange sympathy is also formed as he struggles to communicate with his partner. James Alexandrou and Celine Abrahams give realistic performances of a young couple fighting to cope with their decisions.
Finally we see Ahmed, an Afghan immigrant living in a flat that needs vacating. After he tells his landlady about his escape from the Taliban she eventually invites him to live with her. Although his problem isn’t solved, there is now a bond between them.
Stan appears between each act, his circumstances and experiences a mystery until the end, when he meets Harry. The revelation is harrowing and stark, but contrasted with the connection between the two, one that’s essential for them. The issues are not completely resolved, but some improvement may enter their lives.
Radcliffe’s production of realistic characters in difficult situations makes one ponder the importance of human interaction and the bonds we need to make to survive in challenging circumstances. Though the stories are not entirely unique, their relevance to the modern age makes for an interesting play.
The Other Half is at the Rose and Crown Theatre from 21st June until 1st July 2017. For further information or to book visit here.