Review of The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You
One Stop Arts
Publication Date: 24 June, 2012
By Jo Sutherland
★★★ out of 5
Justen Bennett’s The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You tells the story of ‘us’. That is to say them. Or we. Perhaps me. Him, her and you. It is the story of love meets diluted-hate; a passion that burns a little too strongly. Sure we all need that spark, some smoke to make things exciting – but too much can ignite a raging fire that consumes the heart and destructs the path to a happy future. But it’s not all doom and gloom. This play is actually very funny!
A nameless couple (Ryan Wichert and Max Wilson) invite us to become flies on the fourth wall and share their private moments of joy, intimacy, passion and rage. The lovers blur the line between playing, fighting and play-fighting.
Bennett’s production is wonderfully slick and well rehearsed. From the very beginning, Wichert and Wilson burst onto stage with a never-ending supply of energy. They are the Duracell duo, especially during scenes where the audience unsuspectingly become part of the action. The actors confidently control the sporadic moments of audience interaction, and their warm and welcoming manner is comforting – preventing an internal plea of ‘oh god, leave me alone’.
The pair oozes stage presence and clearly has fun on stage, which is infectious. The dynamic couple share great chemistry and the tactile nature of the characters and sensuality contained within the script is fully explored. No punches are pulled when it comes to the dramatically manic yet realistic arguments.
The writing is original, different, quirky and the content – although bizarre at times – often draws parallels to a range of dysfunctional and functional relationships. In parts, the language is beautifully romantic. But the real credit to the writing is the imagination behind an otherwise popular subject; a story essentially about love and all its pitfalls, crippling dependency versus fear of being alone and internal battles within the mind.
The story strikes several chords, despite weaving in between the everyday and the fantastical. For instance; at one point there’s a fight between a man and mini-squid-teddy-bear-thing. INK-teresting. (Couldn’t help myself!) But the best bit is when the audience gets to become a human synthesizer. We form a ‘multi-man band’, superbly orchestrated by the actors.
Gender is secondary to the over-riding factor: what it is to love and to be loved in return (I’ve heard that somewhere…). The play is gender-neutral and sexual orientation is irrelevant. Individuals everywhere will be able to identify with this piece. Many of us will have slid down the ‘waterslide of vast, epic emotions’…. and hit the bottom. And perhaps got bruised.
We’ve probably all witnessed couples play the ‘let’s show off our love’ game, whilst behind closed doors their unity crumbles. We’ve probably all lived the extremes: one minute laughing together, the next screaming our heads off and slamming every available door. And we’ve probably all felt the need to be as physically close to someone as humanly possible. (Ask my boyfriend… once I’ve released him from obligatory snuggles.) The nestling into neck nooks, the silly noises, the involuntary baby voices – it’s all in there, but disguised in a dimension full of unworldly adventures, most of which are [with] ‘you’.
The only negatives are that it took a while to win me over. The opening is energetic but a little bit too wacky. I had to fight the thought ‘oh no, more drama queen jazz hands where stand-up meets stage school’. I was soon put to rights though. At times the scenes dragged. During the ‘Where’s the Phone?’ scene, I was moments away from ruining the surprise by throwing it at them.
I was also disappointed by the final scene. There is plenty of ammunition in the writing to close the show with a bang, to leave the audience with a lump in their throat – but it doesn’t work. Well, it didn’t for me and I’m usually Emo-Queen of Emo-Town. Something is missing. Perhaps the actors didn’t totally connect to the ending or perhaps the crescendo lacks substance.
On another note, if you see this show, you’ll discover some fantastic games that you can play at home! There’s one that involves being immersed in darkness with only torches to lose and subsequently find each other (hmm, I think that’s what they call ‘subtext’). The ‘What Makes You a Nob’ game is best avoided though – unless you’re looking for an easy way to break up.
Overall, this is a great play and an entertaining show. The writing is both funny and moving, and the universal themes of love are cleverly explored – if you let yourself embrace the randomness. There’s no other way to describe it; you should just go and see it. And for those of you who are single, you won’t leave the theatre wishing otherwise. And for those shacked up in love nests, you won’t leave the theatre looking for a pen to write a ‘Dear John’ letter. The play explores the good, the bad, the ugly and the beauty that life and the inevitabilities of love throws at us.