Ava Wong Davies’ play takes the form of a fracturing narrative rooted in the moment that Joy (Tuyen Do) left her husband and baby daughter EJ (Aoife Hinds). This splinters into an impressionistic survey of the lives they have lived or left behind.
EJ’s story unfolds over the course of a night, as she flees a club, comforts her exhausted father and slips into a hot bath. Her monologue is lyrical and dissociated from ordinary speech; she balletically mimes each action as she describes it (pinching skin, squatting down in the road), and rarely uses contractions or slang (“I cannot, I cannot, I cannot.”). With this elevated register, there is a sense she is hovering above her own story, waiting to embody her plot.
Joy’s story is more discursive, from her early years in the UK to her marriage, pregnancy and devastating antenatal depression and loss of selfhood. Conversational and gentle, her monologue is a plea for understanding. Though some beautiful, brutally honest lines are addressed to the absent EJ, Do delivers them with a startling openness and vulnerability that draws in the audience.
Like chess pieces, the two women influence one another’s movements, which intersect on stage, though they don’t officially see one another until a final scene. A fine, sharp change in Ben Kulvichit’s lighting heralds ‘normal’ speech and one-on-one interaction. The more poetic text is temporarily boxed up until the intensity of the moment cracks the hard realist shell like an egg, and Do delivers a final breathtaking soliloquy.