saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
Driving Me Round The Bend
16th July 2015
Photography provided by The Space
Everyone knows at least one couple who fight all the time over pointless things, constantly talk at cross purposes and yet somehow have managed to stay happily married for donkey's years. In Driving Me Round the Bend, George (Nigel Fairs) and Georgina (Louise Jameson) are off to see their daughter and her family for Christmas. Trapped in a moving metal box with only each other for company, it's not long before the sniping starts and tensions surface. The sat nav soon stops giving travel advice and becomes Georgina's inner monologue, backing her up and egging her on. Husband and wife are both keeping a secret, with Georgina working herself into a frenzy over what she thinks George might be lying about, and George trying so hard to keep his own mystery under wraps that he doesn't realise he's not the only one hiding something.
There's something inherently British about this play, written and performed by Fairs and Jameson. A couple fighting during the festive season, a mentally ill woman speaking to an inanimate object, a divorce on the cards - we find humour in what is essentially quite a bleak outline and carry on laughing. In some countries, they'd probably call that poor taste. Here? It works. There are plenty of laughs of recognition as George pretends to be listening, as well as some wittier lines which tickle us, such as Georgina's beautifully delivered insistence that George requires a special kind of doctor (no, I'm not spoiling the punchline).
Much of the humour derives from the intended gap between the couple and the audience. After accusing her husband of having an affair with a woman, Georgina asks "Are you a gay?" As for George, he innocently misuses acronyms like Milf. The couple entertain themselves on a long journey by guessing cryptic crossword clues. They may try to be down with the kids and they be incredibly good-natured, but they're very much of their generation. Few people will relate to the couple, instead see a couple they know in them - probably parents or grandparents.
The writing perhaps relies too much on safe "yes dear, no dear" jokes as it gets started, with the pacing slow in the first half. The second however is much stronger, with the characterisation firmly established by then, allowing for more plot development. What's most important though is that the audience are prepared to wait for the action to truly kick off, having grown fond enough of the two Georges to stick it out. The bickering swings back and forth between gentle and ridiculous, but because we never really doubt the deep-rooted love between the couple, we find it equal measures of endearing and entertaining.
The Space has been set up in its most traditional of layouts, with Fairs and Jameson delivering their two-hander from the raised platform at the opposite end of the main exit. A metal frame with a wheel and Mercedez Benz emblem has been constructed to imply a car, and the action largely takes place from behind the wheel and in the passenger seat, with the limited need for space giving an intimate feel to the production. We're almost on that blasted car journey with them.
The problem with using the suggestion of a car rather than a car itself is that the actors do frequently forget they're getting in and out of a saloon. Sound effects don't quite synchronise, and whilst George does twice warn Georgina to close the door and put her seat belt on, you're a bit concerned the couple have been driving down large chunks of the motorway with all the doors and the boot swinging wide open. It's only a minor detail, but one which if they got right would help add a bit more finesse.
Driving Me Round The Bend is hardly a high-octane police chase, rather it's a charming character study of a quintessentially English couple. The humour may be quite gentle and safe, but it's a perfectly pleasant journey for onlookers. Not entirely sure I'd want to be in that car with George and Georgina though - I'm much more comfortable behind my fourth wall, dear.
Driving Me Round The Bend opened on 15th July and runs until 19th July 2015 at The Space.
Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)