Every relationship, from the briefest fling to the longest marriage, comes with expectations attached. Gently interrogating the impact of gender roles and sexuality on our romantic choices, Ruby Thomas’ first full-length piece, Either, is a playful, thought-provoking debut.
The familiar story tracks one couple’s rocky relationship from chance encounter to passionate infatuation, to their eventual breakup and beyond. Throughout the play, these two lovers are portrayed by multiple performers, with different actors cutting in mid-scene like players in an improv game.
It’s certainly gimmicky, but director Guy Jones stages it as a slow dance of seamless transitions that make the most of Thomas’ witty but underwritten text, each new pairing inviting the audience to re-evaluate the character’s motives and needs.
The cast each channel a distinct aspect of their character’s personality. Gabriel Akuwudike is all shallow confidence and pretension, a poised flirt in need of constant ego-massage. Isabella Laughland plays his partner with a bubbly-but-awkward energy, quick-witted but naive, while Tilda Wickham invests the same character with moving vulnerability and evident emotional fragility.
Bethany Wells’ stark, minimalist set makes an elegant and surprisingly versatile frame for the action. Here, a receding triangular stage is surrounded by featureless doors that swing open at precise angles to suggest various semi-private places – hospital wards, reception rooms, or the toilets at the Barbican. Performers sweep through this neutral space on private journeys, or linger in doorways to observe alternate versions of their unfolding love lives.