Two beings find themselves together in a Wonderland-esque world with some memories of a life before but no clear idea of how they got to be here. Over the course of an hour, or perhaps years in this timeless place, they build their pasts and develop a symbiotic relationship through which they can explore philosophy, self, and trauma.
Founded in 2017 in Newcastle, Bearfoot Theatre is a not-for-profit collective providing opportunities for young theatre makers to develop their skills while putting on original and experimental local works. Their aim is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for young queer artists to use their voice and challenge audiences with discussion of social justice issues.
When Nicholas Thoroughgood’s character awakes in the room with Cassie Hamilton, he is little more than a body. Devoid of his memories and personal identity markers, he will have to find those things again through clues provided by the room. Hamilton has already been in the room for some time so her memories are more advanced. An hourglass and a metronome mark out the passing of literal time but, as the characters remember more about their traumatic pasts and complicated inner selves, the atmosphere of the room swirls and dematerialises around musings about life, love, the deeper meaning of it all, and identity.
At the core of Thoroughgood’s script is the notion of identity as the audience watches two nameless, generic characters build themselves from the ground up with few external impulses. Part Waiting for Godot, part No Exit, this script plays with existential and absurdist concerns of personality and humanity to deconstruct the artifice of self. An aspect of the production is experiencing the tedium and boredom of the characters in real time as their arguments trail into illogic and their anecdotes are bottled up with secrecy. The tension grows inconspicuously until bursting in moments of carnal cathartic release full of blood and screaming and chaos.
Each performance sees the actors swap places between the two in the room and the two unseeable stage hands (Daniel Cottier and Zoe Walker) who help materialise the environment of the room. Riley McLean’s direction keeps the pacing tight with a steady forward momentum. There is an overt sentimentality to flashback scenes before the time of the room, lit with flashlights like spots of crystallised memory, that contrasts with the conspicuousness of the room. Moments of reflection and joy that the characters find in familiar songs additionally adds texture and a touch of recognisable nostalgia to otherwise unspecific experiences. McLean finds a balance in these characterisations that works well within the mysterious metaphysical space and time.
The sound design from Thoroughgood and McLean, added to by composition from Thoroughgood and Edward Garvin, mixed natural sounds like boiling or pouring water with dramatic thunder claps and clashing noises like souls screaming in their escape from hell. Lighting design, also from McLean, combined warm ground lighting and harsh flash lights to construct clearer spaces within the room, alternating between memory and what can be construed as present day. There was a cluttered, eclectic feel to the physicality of this production which contributes to the absurd elements but perhaps muddles notions of empty, limbo time.
As a play by young people, I Hope it’s Not Raining in London grabbles with the concerns of boundaries and construction of identity in an encompassing and approachable way. With a more rigorous approach to philosophical theory and contemplation, the script could reach towards a deep examination of the human psyche. But, as it stands, the production is a satisfying performance of pressure and release.
I Hope it’s Not Raining in London is running at the PACT from June 26th – 29th before touring to Newcastle and Victoria. For more information about the tour, please visit the Bearfoot Theatre website.