Thursday, February 29

Ikaria – Park Theatre

This play is about mental illness, although that is not immediately apparent. The setting is students’ lodgings in ‘Ikaria’, a hall of residence. Simon, a third-year student, who has just taken a year out from his studies, has invited Mia, a first year student in her second term, back to his room. After meeting at a film club, he has offered to share some pizza vouchers. Mia, who is for some unaccountable reason strongly attracted to Simon, is clearly expecting that this invitation will lead to something more. Simon seems initially pleased at the chance to develop a relationship with Mia and although the first meeting is uncomfortable, it is followed up by others, and soon develops into a romantic relationship. 

Early on both parties declare their love for each other, although it is possible that these two young people have any understanding of the difference between love, infatuation, lust and friendship. As their relationship develops over the term, the erratic nature of Simon’s behaviour and inability to commit leads even the naive Mia to start to worry about his mental state.  Simon clearly has serious problems: he rarely leaves his room, has no friends, lives on takeaways and ignores his personal hygiene.

The play was performed in Park Theatre’s Studio 90 with the audience on two sides. The set depicted the simple stark furnishing of a student bedsit: single bed, desk, wash basin, books, etc. This provided a very good intimate atmosphere for an intense emotional play.

Theatrically it was a series of short scenes depicted by effective changes in lighting and sound.  Philippa Lawford’s writing is excellent, the first scene where the two are in the uncomfortable situation of many first dates was brilliant and very funny. The two actors, James Wilbraham and Andrea Gatalian, were very accomplished and the dialogue and the development of the relationship were realistic. Interest and tension were maintained up until the tragic ending, although there were a couple of points where unnecessary theatrical business slowed it down, for example when Simon was shaving.

There were a number of unanswered questions: if Simon was such an agoraphobic how did he end up in the film club in the first place? What attracted Mia to him and why did she stay with him so long when he was obviously not reciprocating her affections?  And although they came from very different backgrounds, Simon relatively privileged and Mia brought up by a single parent, was there something in their backgrounds which could have accounted for this unlikely, and ultimately doomed relationship?

This is a disturbing, slow burn play which stimulates thought but ultimately reveals the truth that it is very difficult to help someone with mental health issues if they are not themselves able or prepared to be helped. 

Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd

Reviewed: 29th November 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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