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Mydidae – Trafalgar Studios, London

Writer: Jack Thorne

Director: Vicky Jones

Reviewer: Edie R


Keir Charles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Mydidae, Soho Theatre, 5 December 2012 (courtesy of Simon Annand) 3Kitchen Sink Drama is dead: long live Bathroom Sink Drama! Jack Thorne’s 2012 play “Mydidae” has transferred to Trafalgar Studios, where the stage of Studio 2 has been fitted out with loo, bath, basin and all complete, including fully functioning plumbing. There’s a dolls house delight to the setting, and “Mydidae” itself is also a small, dark delight, where humour, heartbreak and hot water mix as a couple talk in the bath.

David (Keir Charles) and Marian (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) are both implausibly funny and eloquent. There’s not a dull line in the play: if anything, the repartee is a bit too brilliant for the audience to feel fond of the characters, though both are well-rendered and interesting. Their relationship is also intriguing, poising intimacy – after all, they spend most of the play naked and entwined in a bath – over an undercurrent of mistrust that infuses their banter with irresistible dramatic tension.

Why is it called “Mydidae”? Its title gives the play a ring of Greek tragedy, which actually isn’t wholly misleading: this self-styled exploration of “the darker side of love”, with its two witty, unhappy protagonists, turns out to be a funny, bathroom-sized tragedy. But in fact, so trusty Wikipedia informs us, Mydidae are a family of large flies which mimic the colouring of wasps – harmless insects that look tougher than they are.

It would be hard to characterise either Waller-Bridge or Charles as harmless, especially towards the play’s end, when the action takes a violent tumble-turn. To say more would spoil a nasty shock which you may enjoy. But certainly their brittle cleverness, like the Mydidae’s fierce stripes, is a disguise for vulnerability and for actual and figurative impotence. David is recurrently seen on the phone, bluffing a much-interrupted sales pitch for a product that “nobody wants to buy”; Marian tells him about a dream in which he rides in to rescue her from masturbating grass people (don’t ask) “on a small horse”.

It’s a very funny, very slick, very sad play, compelling and watchable, though even at an hour and twenty minutes, it goes on too long: the audience is still rapt, true, but some power is lost in the closing scenes.

Go and see it, if only for the childish pleasure of seeing running water onstage – the quality of Thorne’s writing, and the calibre of the actors, buoyed up on that hot water, won’t disappoint.

Photo: Simon Annand

Runs until 30th March

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