Review: albatross (Playground Theatre)

Isley Lynn’s complex and clever play, albatross, is revived by the represent theatre company as the first of two productions in their inaugural season.

The stage at the Playground Theatre is highlighted by two lighted benches, long enough to suggest a range of settings, reassembled and pushed into place for each scene. This design, by Catherine Morgan, is enhanced by Bethany Gupwell’s lighting and Beth Duke’s sound.

Most of this play is made up of duologues, where a pair of characters joust verbally and dance around echoes of the past. The same characters reappear in different settings, but some actors also play multiple parts. It pays to be attentive to what you’re seeing.

The purpose of represent is to provide opportunities for performers and creatives to engage in the industry and experiment. Jessica Edwards directs a company of six playing nine characters.

Promotional image from albatross

From the moment Jodie, a homeless woman, requests a vivid tattoo from apprentice Kit, a chain of events and interactions is set in motion. We meet others, we see how our past decisions can hold us back and weigh us down.

There are relationships depicted here of all types: romantic, controlling, found families. Settings range from shops, clinics, homes, and the outdoors. The production makes stark choices of who these people are and why they are as they are.

Lynn’s writing is multilayered and perceptive, making each character strong and believable. The tattoo motif comes and goes as albatross progresses, both marking and mutilating as it goes. Each motivation for being inked is different, and has consequences.

Promotional image from albatross

Inevitably some scenes feel unresolved: I liked the way you saw different sides of the same character, but some scenes could almost be opened out into their own drama. It also feels as if albatross is warning us not only about trusting others, but also ourselves. It’s a lesson about making assumptions.

I can’t single out one performance so will just namecheck the whole cast. Aaron Douglas, Samarge Hamilton, Sarel Madziya, Nemide May, Emily Pemberton, and Loussin-Torah Pilikian are all accomplished players, able to make the most of a pause or a phrase.

You can watch albatross until 6 November at the Playground Theatre, Latimer Road. Book your tickets here. To find out more about represent, go here.

Image credits: Hannah Ellison