The title Mediocrity is unfortunate considering the play failed to live up to its own name. With a crude set design, obstructing seating arrangement, and pretentious performer ridiculing the play before we as audience members had a chance to, Mediocrity didn’t seem to be anything I’ve ever wanted.
Playwright and Director Sophie-Jane Huchet did have some interesting perspectives about the struggles twenty-somethings face, it’s just that most of them have been said before. While theatre can become the perfect platform for voicing angst and self destruction, the perspectives presented seemed generic, underdeveloped and repetitive.
Put simply, Mediocrity didn’t have a story. The show seemed to be more of a combination of societal criticisms than a plot with an inciting incident and character development. I felt as if the three actors could have stood there yelling social commentary at us and the same response could have been created. I spent the entire production wondering where the story was and who these people were.
Callum Pulsford’s character, who seemed to represent a narrator and inner voice for both of the characters, was confusing at best. After bringing our attention to the opening stance of the two lead actors staring at a wall as “art”, he informed us “If you don’t get it you’re not trying hard enough”. Instead of being charmed by the piece’s ability to make fun of itself I felt insulted and skeptical of what was to come.
Harvey and Loretta definitely feel a need to be special and successful, but their description as a couple of painfully average twenty-somethings is questionable. The word average implies ordinary or typical. I felt the stereotypical characterisation addressed some of this, but the ‘ordinary’ was never really present.
Loretta (Jacki Sutton) seemed to portray a typical tightly wound workaholic. The concept behind this character in a 2015 context is interesting, but her characterisation was underdeveloped and at times insulting. Of course, her antagonistic control over her partner could have been the driving force for tension and plot progression, but unfortunately her motivations felt more like a person suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder than a struggling woman in her early 20’s.I never really grasped what her character’s issue was, other than being an irritating and selfish person to live with. Not only did the character frustrate me, but Sutton’s portrayal was a melodramatic overhaul of neurotic screams and mime-like facial expressions. Both character and actress made sure we knew how she felt, and while I tried my best, I couldn’t sympathise with her.
Her partner Harvey (Christopher Batkin), however, did his best to be supportive and accommodating to her outrageous demands and suffocating desire for routine. Harvey was your typical push over; he was completely complacent and slotted neatly into the role of the part time self-doubting writer, part-time doormat to walk all over. Despite a genuine and enjoyable performance from Batkin, I couldn’t get past how underdeveloped each of these characters were. How are we supposed to relate to these characters? With no tension other than a dysfunctional relationship and personal pressures from each of their working lives, I was lost in an ocean of overdone content and jarring performances.
The “narrator” character’s inconsistent voice seemed to be the only drive of conflict within the disjointed piece. The character’s involvement was incoherent; he seemed to change between the voice of reason, the voice of self doubt and the embodiment of mediocrity. His conversations with each of the characters seemed to chop and change. Sometimes he would voice notions of self doubt and paranoid conclusions, while others he provided patronising pep talks and condescending advice.
The most frustrating moment of all was when both Loretta and Harvey finally abandoned their defensive attitudes and released their frustration by physically abusing the character that supposedly embodied their combined mediocrity. The couple stuffed the character under a sheet and sat on him as if to sweep all of their problems under the rug. This moment was a chance for honest discussion, insightful perspectives and perhaps a shift in audience connection, but unfortunately it was cut short – 20 minutes short of the 50 minute duration to be exact. With an abrupt ending and all-but-exciting summary of what each of the characters’ mediocrity meant to them, I struggled to accept the note that the piece ended on.
If you would like to see the piece for yourselves, you can book tickets here.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 13th.