“I Think We Are Alone" at The King’s Theatre Edinburgh (Tuesday 18th to Saturday 22nd February) is a brave production to bring to the stage and, although there are some interesting ideas here, I left the theatre with a strange feeling of stories still waiting to be told as the people that we meet are often visited in far too small moments of their lives.
Our central story involves two sisters separated from each other by only three years, once so close to one another, but due to childhood events still reaching out down the years to them, and the truth truly being in the eye of the beholders, they have not spoken to each other for eight years. Here, Charlotte Bate (Ange) and Polly Frame (Clare) give exceptionally powerful performances that give layers of unspoken depth to their characters, but the style of the writing means that these performances are, until the resolution of the story, only monologues. This monologue narrative is all too often used with our other “stories to tell” - Chizzy Akudolu (Josie), Caleb Roberts (Manny), Simone Saunders (Bex) and Andrew Turner ( Graham) - and despite fine performances from everyone, I found myself just starting to get interested in their personal stories when we switched to another person. In some way, without everyone knowing everyone else, there is also, as our story arcs develop, layers of interaction connecting the characters at some level so that our individual stories fit into a larger, but unseen by anyone, picture and the question at the interval is the obvious one of how everything will be resolved in Act II.
Overall, as the title implies, “I Think We Are Alone" confronts some dark spaces in people’s past and present lives, and Act II has a far darker tone than Act I, but, overall, our characters’ stories and the issues raised in them have been told so many times before that it is difficult always to make something new from them. There is a nice little twist at the end to one story, but I am saving that for audiences to find out for themselves.
There is a current theme in this story of the need to make sense of the world, the loss of loved ones, and the need to reconnect in some way with people that are needed in our life for it to be complete again, and this is perhaps where the story gets trapped a little in wanting to find a neat and circular solution to everyone’s story, and the result is those very neat overlapping circles of Venn diagrams that I still remember from my school days. This neatness of resolution to everything for me is an odd one as life so often is just not like that, instead it is far too often broken lines, unresolved issues and wounds that never heal.
There are many pluses to this production too, and one of those is the very unusual choice of stage set, well no stage set, just a stark art-house style installation of large moving rectangles that along with our cast are choreographed in movement more like a contemporary dance performance, to the second. Our rectangles are underused though and miss the opportunity to use colours and visuals to match people’s emotional states and stories.
“I Think We Are Alone" is a bold production that is giving a very contemporary arts feel to this production and co-directors Kathy Burke and Scott Graham have with designer Morgan Large created something that is strikingly visual here in its aesthetic. There is more detail here to our stories too in cleverly used lighting (Paul Keogan) and sound (Ella Wahlstrom) design, but it is very subtle and easily missed at times.
Review by Tom King