London party

US – White Bear Theatre, London

Screenwriter: David Periva

Director: David Frias-Robles

Emotions run high in the first few minutes and last half hour of the relationship shown here in David Persiva’s eye-catching debut piece. In just over an hour, we’re given broad insight into their three-year-old couple, voyeuristically spying on them at their most vulnerable shared moments and horribly acknowledging snippets of conversations we’ve all had either at first surge of love, be it like it’s coming to an end.

The unnamed man (played by Persiva) and woman (Naoimh Morgan) aren’t meant to be everyone. But their energy and goofiness will elicit an empathetic response from anyone who’s ever had a flirtatious conversation. From their chance encounter at a house party, the couple feel doomed to easily tangle and then painfully separate. Who hasn’t had a breakup then turned around to torturously identify that all the signs were there?

Through it are some hard-hitting insights into relationships and human connection > Apparently these two fucked each other up “because we fucked ourselves”, showing that everyone is projecting an idealized version of the another person on them. Which is great until reality kicks in and you’re in a three-year relationship and navigating shared ownership of a sometimes vegan cat.

Persiva’s writing is sometimes very elegant technically. There is a skill in the interactions that succinctly, harmoniously and naturally shows the similarities between the characters (quick to mistake, a certain sharpness and vulnerability) and the clear reasons why they should not be together. His dialogue is also generally fantastic; naturalistic, reality-based with a feature made out of Morgan’s Northern Irish idioms and accent. It flows well until he dives in for his moment of philosophical monologue about possibilities and talking, just talking.

Both Persiva and Morgan are a joy to watch, feeling fully invested and absorbed in these roles. The breakup scene is difficult: emotional, cinematic. It may sometimes be laid down a little thick, but it works. In the small space of the white bear, Persiva’s anguished cries are somehow amplified to a monstrous level, and Morgan’s relative calm in the calamity is absorbing.

All set against the detailed backdrop of Maeve Reading’s living room, it’s a drama that maps the domestic and emotional worlds of these two with genuine likability and charisma. It’s close and intense at times, but it’s a short piece about falling in love and then breaking up, so it should be considered a job well done.

Until February 19, 2022