Harrogate Studio Theatre, Friday 4th March, 2016
‘Parallel’, a new play by Laura Lindsay, was all about chance meetings and taking chances; surprising parallels between lives beside parallel lines it would appear. What I really liked most about this production was the refreshing and unusual set-up. Before the performance began, the actresses appeared and explained to the audience that they all knew all of the roles and each night, they rolled a dice to see who would play which role that evening. We were, of course, notably impressed in the knowledge that they were capable of such memory skills and talent enough to channel one of three roles at the drop of the hat- and the show hadn’t even begun yet!
‘Parallel’ is about three women who meet by chance at a train station (hence the case of ‘chance’ in designating roles). In the close proximity of the studio theatre, the audience were given the chance to watch the three women attempt to navigate the ever changing dynamics and situation at hand close-up- it was surprisingly captivating given the simple set and seemingly simple premise. The characters consist of a business woman who misses her train and has to deal with the agony of staying in her sky-high work heels indefinitely; a homeless woman, carrying around a bundle of sass and bitterness with some gritty independence thrown in; and a young woman with no place to go but plenty of defiance and booze- she’s not quite homeless, but she certainly has an uncertain future.
The idea of chance meetings changing subsequent circumstances was explored and challenged through the gradual developement of fleeting relationships created under duress (the need to food, booze or nicotine can all be great enticements for bringing people together when they are stranded it seems). As the performance progresses, the interactions between the women span all kinds of frustrations and misunderstandings or indeed, misplaced attempts at charitable actions; offering a place to stay and a fresh start for someone with an unclear future does not guarantee that your good intentions won’t cause offence or be rejected.
The roles were played brilliantly, with each actress (Arabella Gibbins, Laura Lindsay and Seda Yildiz) making the role her own (I assume, for I couldn’t imagine one of the other actresses playing the same role in the exact same way) for the evening with never a faltering line- quite amazing under the circumstances. What was particularly interesting about the set-up was that I found myself imagining each actress as one of the alternative roles throughout the performance; debating with myself which actress seemed more naturally suited to which role. The great thing was that my casting choices weren’t being played out in that particular performance, forcing me to appreciate the talent in front of me- such adaptability is something worth recognition I think. This was a strong production with lots of strengths, fascinating in its close-up on relationships and unlikely commonality even when lives seem so polarised. The casting approach was equally engrossing and I found the whole idea very refreshing. I will definitely be looking out for Black Toffee in future season programmes I think.