Review: I Think We Are Alone at Liverpool Playhouse ****
We live in an age of complete connectivity – and yet in many ways we’re more alone than ever.
And as Sally Abbott’s powerful and thought-provoking new piece for Frantic Assembly explores, what we really crave amidst the 24-hour this and global network that is human connection and interaction – whether it be a hand on the arm, an endorphin-releasing hug, or simply someone to stop and hear us.
In I Think We Are Alone, Abbott presents us with six seemingly separate story threads which bind ever closer together as the evening progresses.
There’s mum Josie (Chizzy Akudolu) and university student son Manny (Caleb Roberts), picking a prickly path through loss, disappointment, aspiration and expectation.
Brittle hospice nurse Ange (Charlotte Bate) pushes death into the background on hedonistic nights out, while control freak Clare (Polly Frame) would rather be with second best than all alone.
And cabbie Graham’s (Andrew Turner) cheeriness proves to be merely a carapace, while cancer patient Bex (Simone Saunders) channels determined cheerfulness beneath her itching wig.
Chizzy Akudolu (Josie) and Caleb Roberts (Manny). Top: Polly Frame as Clare. Photos by Tristram Kenton
It all makes for a busy evening of ideas and issues – almost too many to fully invest in each one, although Abbott succeeds in keeping the plates spinning from start to finish.
Meanwhile co-directors Scott Graham and Kathy Burke keep the pace tight and the action fluid as the skeins of the various narratives start to tighten.
Unlike Frantic Assembly’s previous work, here there’s little direct hands-on interaction; its trademark physicality is channelled instead into the perpetual motion of a quartet of Perspex panels which are swirled sinuously around the stage by the actors.
The panels frame, crowd in on or hide the action; distorting shadowy figures through their metaphorical opaqueness.
Because after all, things in life aren’t always what they seem. And it's well worth remembering in our dealings with others that the face we present to the world can be very different to what is going on beneath it.