NST City prides itself on its support of local artists at various stages of their careers, be they professional or amateur, and this February is excited to be holding the 2020 Make It SO festival that showcases their skills and talents. 19 shows from 18 companies over a three week period is no mean feat to attain!
Mudlark Theatre is one of those companies, a new local group who describe themselves as “a collection of excitable people from Hampshire who love working together and love making theatre. […] We like making people laugh, we like making people think, we like looking at things that are a bit unusual and poking them with a big stick.”
And that is just what they achieved with their originally scripted poignant observation on relationships, twisting convention to depict a society where it is completely the norm to follow the inevitable, compulsive “pull” towards their soulmate, unknown to them before the morning that they wake up just “knowing” that their soulmate is out there, instinctively setting out on the journey where the final destination is with the person they are most compatible with and who will “absolutely” make them the happiest they are ever going to be. Already in a relationship? Not a problem – that partner just follows their own “pull” and goes straight to their own soulmate.
This is a challenging and provocative look into the complexities of relationships, turning convention on its head, not the traditional Valentine’s Day rom-com production at all, but the very talented quintet of actors (who also all co-directed the ensemble devised piece) brought such passion, focus and energy to their roles that the subject matter is communicated with dark humour, commitment and focused energy; the audience were laughing aloud as much as it was possible to hear a pin drop in the tense and awkward interactions between the characters.
The central trio of Erin (Gina Thorley, who also wrote the play), her husband Adrian (Ryan Harris) and her soulmate Johan (Nick Edgeworth), who one day randomly arrives on their doorstep from Norway, are mesmerising collectively and individually. The dynamics of intensity and sensitivity within the triangle is palpable and compelling, with moments of powerful raw emotions interspersed with hilarious and raucous observations (all very un-PC) as they set off to find Adrian’s own soulmate, and enhanced with instances of terrific physical humour (the car journey was very simply yet cleverly devised), eliciting laughter from the audience one moment, switching to sharp intakes of breath the next, and drawing on their sympathies and various perspectives throughout.
Wesley Buckeridge and Emily Cutler complete the cast and have the most out-and-out comic collection of roles between them, each clearly defined, brilliantly portrayed and right on point. Cutler’s range of accents during this production is also most impressive!
The strength of collaborative ensemble performance is evidently built on the strong foundations of trust within the group and enhanced by excellent performance skills. The superb sound effects and atmospheric lighting effects in demarcated areas of the stage (an empty black performance space, void of all scenery and dressed only with a few carefully choreographed chairs and a small table) instantly established the locations throughout the journey to find Adrian’s soulmate and helped to move the narrative along at a brisk pace.
At times challenging to watch, at other times just hilarious, at times completely surreal, but at all times thought-provoking, My Soulmate’s Husband’s Soulmate was an intriguing way to spend around an hour in the intimate venue of the NST City Studio, deserving of a larger audience than was there, but much appreciated by those who attended.