As an audience we are implicated right from the beginning in Anthony Neilson’s Stitching. This dysfunctional couple are in love but resent each other, want to make things work but can’t communicate, and need to decide whether to keep their child. For us, on one hand there is the romance: the promise of making it work, the dream of mending the damage and making a life together. On the other hand there is the reality: if they can’t even speak civilly, what’s the point?
The dialogue in this play is sharp, seamless and truly affecting — we cringe and laugh at how realistic, how excruciating their interplay is. Lara Lightfoot and Wade Doolan, themselves a couple, both put on powerful performances — Stu is both a gentleman and a rabid animal, caring and sex-crazed, compassionate and fucked up. Abby is incredibly versatile, from a the-clock-is-ticking mother to a nihilistic prostitute and a range of weirdnesses in-between.
It’s a very confronting play, both in terms of theme and action, but treated deftly for the most part — the direction seems to always pull away at the right moment, keeping the pacing even. The play flashes to scenes in different time periods and slowly we uncover a tragedy that explains their mania, and questions our investment in their relationship.
There are flaws throughout, though small, including a bland use of voiceover that detracts from the characters’ pathos, and an ending, that whilst powerful and moving, also alienates us from Abby — her hysteria, in an Ophelia-esque madness, cuts us off from her during the emotional climax instead of engaging us fully. Stitching still hits hard, though, and definitely adds to TAP Gallery’s continually exciting repertoire, with performances that are striking, startling, and impressive.
Stitching is on until April 12 at Tap Gallery.