Flinch at Old Red Lion Theatre
Flinch begins with a man standing on a table, pointing a banana at the audience and laughing maniacally.
Combining straight acting with slow-motion mime/dance sequences, the production explores the crumbling relationship of its two protagonists while also examining larger themes of sexism, rape culture and the struggles of millennial communication. Neither character is someone you would particularly like to date.
Jess (played by Emma Hemingford) is passive aggressive and is never straight to the point, while Mark (played by Joseph Reed) is clingy and dismissive of his girlfriend’s feelings. Previously in a long-distance relationship, Jess has moved into Mark’s London flat after finishing a drama degree and it’s clear from the outset that the couple are having problems. Despite this, the script shows the pair’s tender, loving feelings towards each other along with the anger and frustration which makes this feel like a real relationship.
The stage contains a table, two chairs (purposely situated away from each other) and a white draw cabinet. The motif of a banana as a symbol for the absurdity of traditional masculine ideals is introduced early in the show when Jess, through plenty of nervous laughter and deflection, describes how she was accosted by a banana-wielding mugger outside their flat and her boyfriend failed to defend her. The mugger, always holding his banana, reappears during hilarious slow-motion sequences set to very fitting music.
Both Emma and Joseph give believable, well-rounded performances and manage to bring their characters to life. Neither is particularly likeable, neither is exactly awful: they feel like real people with all the flaws that real people have.
Flinch is very funny, but the script is poignant and intelligent. Quarter-life crises and feeling that, at 25, one is already “past it” are explored in a way that will resonate with watchers of a similar age, and the realities of being a woman – from having friends who assume you will return their advances as soon as you’re single to feeling an unspoken pressure to have sex when you don’t want to – are also addressed in a raw, relatable way. It might not be the best date-night play, but it’s well worth a watch.
Photo: Ali Wright
Flinch is at Old Red Lion Theatre from 28th May until 15th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.