Nathan Ellis’ play for theatre company This Noise is obsessed with images, both in its form and its content.
A man and a woman narrate two intercut stories of millennial anxiety and apocalyptic numbness, the play happening in our imaginations, testing what we are able to picture and investigating the images that we saturate ourselves with every day. A TV which the man can’t remember turning on flickers in the background, and the woman spends her days logging raw video footage.
In Charlotte Fraser’s coolly controlled production, visual motifs in the writing materialise like omens – two Hawaiian shirts, footage of trees being felled, a mouth full of blood. As the Woman and the Man, Agatha Elwes and Rudolph Mdlongwa are captivating performers, taking things slowly, allowing each new image to uncurl and land.
Drawing influence from writers such as Chris Thorpe and Nina Segal in its detached narration and incommunicable sense of dread, Ellis’ writing is dense and lyrical, full of shimmering turns of phrases. In among its doom-laden visions, there’s also a lingering optimism, and it ends in a tonal gear-shift with a strawberry-sweet coda that by all accounts shouldn’t work, but somehow does.
This is a strikingly mature work from a young company to watch.