Agatha and Ben are newly engaged and about to have his parents around for dinner to share their happy news. Agatha seems distracted and when Ben finds a sonogram picture, their different needs from their relationship come into combat.
Told through a series of flashbacks, from their first night together we follow the couple through the years, young love, moving in together, settling into the quiet moments and to the marriage proposal. There is a complication that Ben wants children, Agatha does not and despite the years together and the time jumps to show them together, it isn’t something either of them ever brought up. It seems odd that so far into a relationship, living together for years, talking of marriage and of future plans but neither have mentioned their strongly held beliefs around having and not having children? While Howard’s script does try and explain this it feels like a bit of an afterthought as if there was a realisation that it doesn’t quite work, and it had least had to be acknowledged. Leaning into the plays broader themes of society’s expectations for couples to want and to have children, surely this theme is somewhat undermined by the fact it had never come up in their relationship, it just wasn’t a factor.
Ben is convinced that Agatha’s view is influenced by the fact that her mother, Lena, left when she was just a child. He holds a deep-seated resentment of Lena for leaving, believing this ‘broke’ the tendency to motherhood that Agatha should have. During a later revelation when trust is shattered, the story tips close to the verge of violence setting Ben down a darker path and leaving us questioning him but then an immediate shifting of that revelation redirects this feeling onto Agatha. Neither character comes out of this well and a lot of the early sympathy for both them and their relationship melts away leaving a sense of unease.
A late appearance, almost an epilogue, by Lena with Agatha feels unnecessary. They are essentially strangers to each other with Lena the only person Agatha could turn to for help. The distance between them and the situation leaves them both appearing cold and restrained and this slows the play down considerably.
Where Agatha truly works is in both of the main performances, Florence Howard’s Agatha and Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge’ Ben are both excellent. They work well together, making their relationship both in the early fizz of meeting and then in the later more quieter times of their life. Despite Ben and Agatha’s positions being totally opposite, reflected in the striking black and white set designed by Carly Brownbridge, each is clear on what they want from life and from each other. The realisation that they can’t be this for each other is immediate and final. Each also does an excellent job of showing the shock and impact that the revelations have on each other, their fears, sorrow and anger and in particular in the heartbreak that loss brings to each of them.
Playing until 15th July, https://theatre503.com/
Reviewer: Dave Smith
Reviewed: 4th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: