From the moment I walked in, to a smoke filled venue, I thought "this could be quality..." It did not disappoint. As my eyes adjusted, I took in the steel frame around the stage with a tangle of wires and lights underneath: a neural web. The set, sound and lighting are almost a third character in this immaculate production.
Chemistry considers mental health and the challenge when a manic and a depressive fall in love. It covers both the chemistry of the brain and the chemistry of the couple in striking scenes. I am always wary when actors use microphones in a small theatre, but here there is a point. When the characters speak their thoughts, they use the mics – another visual image of the shape of a nerve cell, with the lead trailing down like an axon into the tangle surrounding the stage. Caoimhe Farren plays Steph, who is released from her depressive tendency by her growing relationship with manic Jamie (James Mear). They make a delightful, tender odd-couple, testing the bounds of their thoughts and fears as their love grows. Neither actor holds back, there are very subtle, sexy scenes as they reveal more about themselves and embrace the healing relationship. Of course, we should not expect a happy ending…
Alex Howarth has designed and directed a wonderfully sensitive, knowing, adult production. Every detail has purpose. The actors build credible individual characters and entice the audience into their romance and despair. It is thought-provoking and devastating as well as particularly beautiful. This is the best production I have seen all year.