Half Me, Half You at the Tristran Bates Theatre
It’s a surprise that so few Trump-era plays are being produced in the UK when there are so many parallels between the current British and US climates. Liane Grant’s debut show Half Me, Half You makes a welcome return to London’s Tristan Bate theatre, exploring the current issues raised by a rise in alt-right politics through bi-racial lesbian couple Jess (sublimely played by Toccarra Cash) and Meredith (performed by the playwright herself).
The first act, set in Meredith and Jess’s apartment, sees the former suffering a miscarriage that opens an impasse which neither of the two can overcome. The second act moves forward 17 years to a post-Trump future where civil war has broken out and Meredith has found herself in a dilapidated one-bedroom apartment looking after Jess’s politically astute adopted daughter Maya (Kalea Williams).
Intriguingly, the play is at its strongest in the first act, where the emotional politics between the two women are depicted with an intense emotional truth that is incredibly captivating from curtain up to fade out. Grant has developed a flawless script which beautifully depicts the stresses and strains of married life and Cash makes a stunning debut that tugs on the heartstrings and makes you wholeheartedly empathise with her character. Indeed, such is her acting prowess, she makes the role seem like it is a classic black female role that many will want to cover in the future.
The second act wilts under the palpable weight of racial politics which comes through Maya and Meredith’s forced relationship. Kalea Williams plays the role of sullen teen with touches of comedy that stop the role from being a grouchy caricature, yet the persistent conflict between the two characters lacks the engagement created in the first act. When their dialogue focuses on the racial discord symptomatic of Trump’s alt-right Republicanism, it feels like the point is being over-laboured rather than sensitively explored.
In hindsight, many playwrights would struggle to match such a powerful opening, least of all within their debut piece. The clearest takeaway from this show, though, is that Grant has a wonderful flair for penning female-driven naturalism, and that it would be criminal if this production did not launch the career of Toccarra Cash in British theatre.
Image: Scott Rylander
Half Me, Half You is at the Tristran Bates Theatre from 26th March until 6th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.