Writer: Henry Martin
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Fringe Rating: 2 Stars
Often, a play that raises a lot of questions has you leaving the theatre thinking ‘I wish I knew more’. Other times, you leave not really caring what the answers were. After Circles is sadly in the latter category, with a convoluted plotline that jumps between time periods without any real indication of when is when.
Hiding in a hotel, three women wash clothes repeatedly whilst waiting for liberation that will doubtless never come. Ava and Julie work and talk while the Girl sleeps, and their pasts unfold through stilted dialogue and flashbacks. There is a lack of clarity in the opening scene which is due either to the writing, performances, or both. It becomes apparent that it is forbidden for women to write, so Ava’s discovery of a tiny piece of paper and a pen becomes the catalyst for confessions by both women.
We then jump, without warning, to a young couple looking out at the hills. It is unclear if this is the same time or before, as the Girl has only lain on the floor in the first scene, leaving me to wonder if she was doubling characters. She and her boyfriend J.J. speak of their feelings for each other, and hint at the unrest going on in the world at large. There are strange sentence structures and inflections throughout the scene, and James Martinelli’s J.J. is underpowered and lacks any intensity. Conversely Jamila-Jennings Grant (the Girl) is engaging and passionate. J.J. eventually gives the Girl paper and a pen so she can write to him subversively, although he seems to be in their world’s equivalent of the Nazi Youth.
As the story unfolds the relationships between the characters are clarified somewhat, but I had already begun to lose interest as the characters talked around the subjects raised without ever truly resolving anything, meaning the plot development faltered. The speech patterns seemed unnatural, but not enough to be a stylistic choice, and there were parts of the text that felt clumsy. At times the language became poetic, but without a clear narrative was hard to appreciate, and the final scene between the Girl and J.J. dragged, although Grant gave a superb performance.
Despite the interesting concept of women trying to settle on the five words they can put on paper that will galvanise those outside to rescue them, they never complete this task – a lack of resolution that is a continuing theme in the play: nothing is ever resolved. All in all the piece was unsatisfying, and despite moments clearly intended to shock left me unmoved and uninterested.
Underbelly, 6-30 Aug (not 17), 12:35am (1:35pm), Prices vary.