Review: Des Fleurs at The Space, London

Wednesday 26th October 2022 at The Space, London


Reviewer: Emma Dorfman

Wasted time is perhaps the worst feeling of them all. It’s a feeling we all know well, given the events of the past two years. While some moments promoted overdone dramatic tropes that weren’t necessarily my taste, with Des Fleurs, writer Gabrielle Silvestre shows a promising narrative about the value of time and the difficulty of “fixing” the past. Additionally, her writing and direction carefully hold the subplots skillfully woven into these central messages to suggest a more profound universality behind the narrative.

At the beginning of Des Fleurs, before the lights even go up, I can already tell just what kind of production this will be: Realism, with a capital “R.” A woman sits in her garden, reading a probably very intellectual book. The house music is jazz standard after jazz standard. This pre-show scene didn’t quite track through the rest of the play, but it was quickly forgotten as the show began. The woman looks out into the distance, and with one small gesture, we can tell that she is one-half of the young couple canoodling downstage. In her role as director, Silvestre perhaps underestimates the power of these small gestures and how quickly the audience will “get it,” given that the actress is playing the older woman, Judith (Harriet Whitbread), repeatedly mimics her younger self by combing both hands through her hair.

Likewise, the flashback themselves, which are indisputably crucial to the main narrative, raise questions about this often-seen theatrical device: is there not another way to show the past other than showing it play out, literally in front of the older character reliving the memory? Moreover, it seemed that in these flashback moments, the actors were trying particularly hard. They all had a clear fight, motivation, and drive, which is incredibly laudable. At moments, however, it felt a bit too forced (the confrontation between a younger Judith (Sophie Macdonald) and Georgia (Libby Boyd) stood out as one of these notable moments).

The most interesting moment in the play, as a matter of fact, are not the ones you would quite expect: it wasn’t the scene where Emma (Naomi Hyatt-Golding) told her mother they were moving her to a care home, or the moment in which Georgia asked Judith to run away to New York with her. Rather, it was within the smaller moments, like when Georgia plants a rose bush for baby Emma, and we see the same rose bush still thriving today. Or, when her children can’t find Judith’s kettle, which ultimately leads to a deeper truth about the act of grieving.

It’s these smaller moments that this production should, perhaps, shift its focus. These are the moments that give the most mileage towards (what I think might be) Silvestre’s central message. A story we should all hear: “We’ve wasted so much time.”

Des Fleurs plays at The Space until October 29th 2022 – you can find more information and tickets here.

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