Brad Birch, writer of Even Stillness Breathes Softly against a Brick Wall, asks his audience a series of pertinent questions regarding the world we live in. His clarity of observation is so startling that one can really relate to his two world weary characters. The couple are given no names, their anonymity making them one of us, any one of the audience. Throughout the script they are merely referred to as “Him” and “Her”; we are voyeuristically looking at a reflection of ourselves in contemporary society – this society of Twitter, Facebook, hardcore pornography, O2 sales calls, meal deals, daily meetings. It is this mockery of societal norms that brings great humour to the play.
Birch demands “What happens if you just say no?” – no to modern life, no to the daily grind, no to the rat race, and no to the consumer commodities shoved down our throats. That is exactly what Joe Dempsie (Him) and Lara Rossi (Her) do, what none of us are brave enough to do: they rebel. Smashing, destroying, fucking, tearing apart their lives as they know it. All of this incendiary behaviour is a result of the stultifying lives they have led before: Rossi’s character has had to endure vile workplace sexism, Dempsie (of Skins and Game of Thrones fame) has had to spend his days loaning his father money and trying to prove he is not a “c**t”. Eventually their humdrum lives cause them to ask the question: “Are you happy?” The play is evocative enough that it leaves the audience wondering the very same thing.
Yet Birch offers us an alternative, a chance to see what would happen if we cut the chords connecting us to everyday life. The result is pure carnage, exciting and exotic in its infancy but isolating and destructive in the end. Rossi and Dempsie are entirely believable as an affectionately lacklustre couple and become even more watchable as a loved-up “us-against-the-world” duo. Their tornado of desecration rips through the theatre and brings the distant war they are so used to watching through a TV screen into their very living room. Freedom comes at a scrabbling, animalistic price where the protagonists can no longer form fully constructed sentences. Will they weather the storm they have created or will it tear them apart? The play reveals many of the internal wars inside us all, but proves there are no simple answers.
Our rating: *****