Emma Hemingford’s intriguing debut play sets out to explore traditional heteronormative gender roles through the lens of one couple’s relationship.
In Flinch, Jess and Mark (played with sparky chemistry by Hemingford and Joseph Reed) have just moved in together. She’s an actor, grappling with career setbacks and creepy directors, while he works in the City, at a foreign exchange business, surrounded by lads who unironically use the word “banter.” After an attempted mugging, dormant issues in their relationship rise to the surface. Jess believes Mark ran away when she was attacked, while he maintains he only flinched.
The characters get increasingly fixated with conflicting definitions of manhood and womanhood. Jess more evidently; she describes herself as a feminist but still quietly wishes that Mark had nobly come to her defence.
Hemingford’s writing has a satisfyingly rhythmic, circular energy, and she deftly draws out the way in which ostensibly affable conversations can quickly devolve into recrimination. Rosalind Brody’s direction is equally light on its feet and appealingly playful during the wordless interludes that show (a little too clearly) the things with which Jess and Mark are struggling. However having the Mugger (Andrew Armitage, who imbues his spectral role with glee) stalk across the stage at certain moments overstates the significance of the play’s inciting incident.
Nor does the world of the play feel fully fleshed out. Mark and Jess’ professions are only ever referred to in order to make a point about societal constriction. As a result there is an odd disconnect between their relationship and the play’s strangely diluted depiction of the world they inhabit. There is a lot of promise here, but it feels in need of further development.