This play previously ran at the Union Theatre, where it received praise for its gender- and pronoun-blind casting, asssigned at each performance.
Four characters – A, B, Friend and Sibling – come together in Our Last First, a piece which explores the firsts and lasts of a relationship. Each show has a different combination and a different love story.
Our four cast members are Beca Barton (B), Joshua Eldridge-Smith (the nasty and vicious Friend), Annie Loftus (Sibling) and Eoin Quinlan (A). The story is meant to be truthful, uncomfortable, and honest.
Act One is largely the story of the couple A and B, until Friend appears to cause conflict and a tense lead-in to the interval. Originally this play was ninety minutes through, one act, but this feels like a good point to break and take a breather.
With the concept of fluid casting, it is interesting to consider how other pairings might work and transform Coyle’s script. Each actor has a very different performance style.
In a living space cluttered with papers and books, A and B’s relationship shifts and develops as paper birds decorate the back wall with a hint of the outdoors.
The quirk of live casting means each performer needs to know all four roles (although Sibling is the least demanding, text-wise, but Loftus does make an impression in the scenes they have).
Staged in a space which means the live audience are looking back and forth while the streaming audience are given one angle to view from, Our Last First moves through the stages of a romance from the awkward opening to other milestones.
Coyle’s writing is funny and pointed, while Xavier’s direction offers both distanced and intimate perspectives – the intimacy coordinator Katharine Hardman working hard to ensure all four actors are comfortable, whichever role they are assigned,
Our Last First was written with no genders, pronouns, ages, or physical descriptions, and developed during the pandemic over Zoom. It then played in its original one-act form before further expansion.
In the cast, there are two queer/non-binary performers, Barton and Loftus, which made me interested to see how their pairing as A and B might work out.
Quinlan, in his stage debut, offers an emotive yet relaxed A, while Barton’s B is warm but slightly sardonic. Their nominally heterosexual pairing evolves as they move ever closer together, physically.
The point, surely, of the play is that we are what or who we want to be, and labels don’t matter. It’s a vibrant, original, and challenging piece not afraid to take risks or pitch a left-field idea.
Image credit: LuluCam/Bullet Point Theatre