Theatre Review: Lobster, Theatre503 ‘Quietly Revolutionary’

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There is much to enjoy in this close quarters examination of one short-lived relationship from the highs of its beginning, to the regrets and recriminations that marks its end. There is much that is specific in this two-hander, but, of course, there is much that is familiar and universal.

J (Alexandra Reynolds) and K (Louise Beresford) are introduced at a New Year’s Eve party by a mutual friend who thinks they’ll make the perfect pair. Only thing is, they’ve already tried that. For J and K were in a year-long relationship before this – not that their friend realised. That initial shock and awkwardness of the unexpected meet is palpable – two women who’ve been avoiding each other, rebuilding their confidence and lives after their falling out, are thrown face to face in a big social setting.

But then we are suddenly flung back in time as the two women, in scenes that alternate asides to the audience with key incidents from their time together, play out the arc of their relationship together from its start to its crumbling finish.

There’s humour and drama, moments of tragedy and real joy. There’s all that initial excitement and passion of the moments when you realise you’ve found ‘The One’; then all the challenges as the reality of compromise and mismatches make themselves apparent. It is, simply, the everyday played out in front of us.

Yet there are some big contemporary themes weaved in too, from mental illness through religious beliefs, to the impact of redundancy. But it’s all done so casually. There’s no great big illuminated arrow and flashing lights screaming, ‘WE ARE DISCUSSING SOMETHING BIG NOW!’ It’s all done as nonchalantly as it would be if the situation were real.

And, at the centre of this, is the fact that the relationship we are watching is between two women. Portrayed as if it were nothing more exceptional than magnolia paint. It’s that everyday-ness that is the show’s strength, and I loved it. We need more of this. For even when gay relationships are staged, they are usually with men. And sexuality is the key point for discussion. And when depression is dramatised, its nearly always put front and centre. But that isn’t real life. For most of us, this is just how it is, not DRAMA in big capital letters.

Snapper Theatre, who produced this in association with Theatre503, are a new feminist company with a focus on sharing stories that are not often told. And they have done well with this one. The writing from Lucy Foster is convincing and realistic (and marshals its rise and falls very well). The two performances are charming and believable too.

There is nothing that’s ‘stop the traffic,’ about this play, but it is its ordinariness that drew me in. It takes a lot of nerve in theatre these days to present something that, on the surface, shows nothing that is extraordinary or radical. However, there is something revolutionary about Lobster; it just chooses not to shout about it, preferring to let it wash over you. Bravo.

Theatre503, London, to January 20th.
Tickets from £15 (concessions available).
All production images by Ali Wright.

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