Image: Proforca Theatre Company
Jonathon George - Jamie
Isobel Eadie - Naomi
Gemma Wray - Karen
James Vincent - Nick
"One day, maybe even tomorrow, and maybe only once, I want to wake up and feel it.
Feel like today is the day when I'm not going to feel so bloody awful and alone all the time …"
Jamie and Naomi collide on a weekend that will cause them to question everything they ever thought they knew about themselves.
Nick meets Karen and their lives will never be the same again.
In a world where love can be swiped on a whim and the path of your whole life is determined by the delay of just one train, is there ever the right time to say what you really feel?
Proforça Theatre Company presents this new piece of writing making its debut in Spring 2018 about a search for fulfilment, second-hand love and the hope of one day becoming something better than you are.
Because sometimes, to follow your heart you have to give it away to someone else.
Feel is written by James Lewis, directed by David Brady and features original music written for this production by Jason Baker.
Feel is being performed on selected dates as part of the "Feel / Feel+" performance cycle.
Contains strong language and adult themes.
The trials of big city living - anonymity, the difficulty of making lasting friendships and meeting potential partners, coping with the stresses of the daily grind of work and getting to it - are pretty well-documented, yet still present severe and pressing challenges for those who have to endure them.
For all its negative aspects, though, London and other big cities still attract newcomers in abundance, perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
Yet there are positive benefits in metropolitan living, though we find none of them in this examination of modern city life.
This rather bleak and morose play focuses on two unconnected pairs of twenty somethings living in London and we witness their interactions over a 6 week period during the months of May and June 2016, the run-up to the EU referendum.
Though that is largely incidental to the main thrust of the action and subject of this play, it seems to hang like a dark cloud over proceedings without an illustrated causal or associative link.
The first scene finds us at a railway station where Karen and Nick wait on workdays to see if their train to the city will run on time.
Karen is an office manager and Nick a writer who has had a book published.
Having seen each other at the station regularly, Karen takes the plunge and strikes up a conversation.
In the next scene, we discover Jamie and Naomi who have only just met and have fetched-up at his place for sex.
Jamie has obviously never been a scout since he is unprepared - ie he has no condoms.
And, to be fair, Naomi is equally ill-equipped.
That removes sex from the agenda, whereupon Jamie starts weeping, not simply because he can't have sex, but because of an emotionally empty 'ache' he continually experiences.
These scenes in the first half ping-pong back and forth between station and Jamie's flat as the story of these two couples develops, and that format starts to become tedious.
That may be the point - a kind of background hum of repetition and routine, but from a watchability point of view it is a little leaden.
The action switches in the second half where both the plot develops significantly as the tension rises and the action becomes less routine.
Oddly, both men here are characterised as quietly spoken, unassuming, ineffectual, uncharismatic, and seem stricken with a strangely quaint affection for Christmas as though that season is the pinnacle of family and emotional existence.
There's more strength and differentiation in the female characters - Gemma Wray's self-deprecating but chirpy Karen is the one to instigate conversation at the station, and Isobel Eadie's well-defined Naomi comes across as a self-serving, unemotional, hard-nosed 'bitch', as the script paints her - a description with which she seems to concur.
On the one hand, this play clearly demonstrates the difficulties of finding a mate - a person to live with and raise babies together - and spend Christmas with!
And the repetitive scenes in the first half serve to illustrate some of the monotonous routine of city existence where hopes are easily and regularly dashed and relationships don't work out as hoped-for.
But the play is over laden with gloom with no glimmer of redemption or flicker of hope in sight.
Maybe the intention is to show that the overarching mood of the generation the play scrutinises is one of sour despondency - and they certainly have good reason for that humour thanks to burdensome debt, years of austerity, low wage-growth and lack of opportunities, for example in the home-ownership department.
Nonetheless, the overall picture is so bleak and depressing that it swamped both my sympathies and mood, in spite of raising real and important emotional and social issues.
So even though there's enough meat in this dramatic serving to mull-over after the show, it's more likely to drive the audience to seek an immediate and substantial intravenous injection of gin at the bar.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for The Lion & Unicorn Theatre
Our show listing for Feel
Read our reviews' policy