Torn Apart (Dissolution) review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘ardently acted’
Bj McNeill’s heartfelt drama sees three couples, separated by decades and geography, linked by an accidental pregnancy and a pack of playing cards.
In, on and around a bed that’s cordoned off from the audience by vertical ropes, each pair cavort and struggle with the issues that threaten to derail their relationships: illness, rapidly running out visas, notions of professional duty.
The presence of this portentous deck of cards – sometimes a means of procrastination, sometimes scattered in rage – neatly underlines the complicating of role of chance and circumstance in our emotional lives; realism squaring up against romance. For each couple, simple and sweet sheet-rumpled intimacy turns fraught, the air laden with questions that rile and things left unsaid.
There’s much that compels and resonates in each scenario, but McNeill’s dialogue is sometimes tortuous, with burdensome explication and some lines that bellyflop from naturalism into melodrama, as when Charlie Allen’s bluff American soldier berates his Polish lover Alina for “running psychological circles around me with your European education”.
A wistful retrospective monologue (“what happened to her?”) is also uncomfortably on the nose. Sudden sequences of convulsive dance appear tentatively tacked onto the drama.
Despite this, McNeill draws committed performances from all six performers. Christina Baston’s literature-loving Australian backpacker and her chef boyfriend Elliott (Elliott Rogers) stand out, their larky antics and enthusiastic spliff-smoking heightening the pathos of impending separation.
Torn Apart (Dissolution) is a sensitive study of desire, but it’s in need of pruning and better pacing.