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Stuck With You
Etcetera Theatre
8th August 2015


Publicity image for Stuck With You

Photography provided by Audley + Co Productions

Given all of the unexpected problems that can and do crop up in life, is love always enough to bind together two people? In Stuck With You, writer and director Natalie Audley explores relationships through two short vignettes. Her protagonists are all very different, as are their circumstances, with the only obvious link between them being love.

In the first mini-play, English boy meets English girl in Paris, of all places. Izzy (Hazal Han) is drunk, dumped and miserable, and bartender Nick (Timothy Bond) just wants to close up shop and get some rest. When Izzy makes a pass at Nick, he doesn't seem interested, but being somewhat of an old-fashioned gentleman, if he were, he wouldn't act on it anyway. With Izzy as confrontational and aggressive as Nick is thoroughly polite and soft-spoken, you just know this pair of strangers aren't going to part ways forever by the end of their chance meeting. Opposites attract, non?

The end of each scene is marked with a total blackout, propelling us into the future, often years at a time. When this first happens, the sudden shift feels disorientating, but we soon become accustomed to hopping forward, waiting for the latest development in Izzy and Nick's intertwined lives. They both date other people, but Audley very much establishes a classic Ross and Rachel dynamic from the beginning. They may have little in common, but we never really believe they'll end up with anyone but each other.

The writing in this first piece feels quite hackneyed, and despite it compressing a decade into half an hour, neither protagonist ever seems to change. Given their long history, you would expect far more emotion in their final scene together, but there's no tension hanging in the air or any believable chemistry. Both actors are just going through the motions. It's not a particularly inspired first piece, but the second thankfully overshadows it, and justifies the ticket price by itself. You wouldn't think it given the difference in quality, but both are written and directed by the same person.

Olive (Maud Madlyn) and Cara (Emily Ambler) have just got married and some of their family are, let's say, not totally on board. A lesbian wedding and a bit of homophobia? Nothing unusual or exciting about that scenario, but the twist is that the newlyweds are on board - on board a boat, that is. They're paddling their way to their own reception venue and given the lack of viable exit options, neither can escape some difficult conversations.

It's strange, but in making the setting for this tale a row boat, Audley manages to elevate it from a typical rom com to something quite special. Madlyn and Ambler are wonderfully cast against each other, with a thoroughly credible dynamic. Olive is relaxed, playful and whimsical, with a jealous streak running not far from the surface. She could take on absolutely anyone in the world and not get stressed, but only with Cara's support behind her. Her bride by contrast is more prone to getting in a flap. She hates upsetting people and is still struggling with the idea of not being able to fulfil her parents' traditional dreams for her.

The characterisation is simply beautiful, with huffy little fights both well-written and well-acted. We meet these two love birds just after they've got hitched, but we don't need to have seen all those earlier years together, we immediately buy into their relationship. As soon as there's a hint of stormy waters for the pair, we find ourselves stifling the urge to yell, desperately wanting to tell the two women they must find a way through. We immediately adore both of them individually and as a couple.

Paris may be the city of amour, but the real romance is to be found trapped on a boat, and it's worth taking that journey with Olive and Cara. Stick it out through the first half, because the second of Stuck With You is a real delight.

Stuck With You opened on 6th August and runs until 9th August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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