Artwork by Laura Whitehouse
Cast and creatives
Mark - Joe Reed
Jessica - Emma Hemingford
Mugger - Andrew Armitage
"When I microwave food, I have to look at the floor, I can't watch the numbers ticking down.
Another forty seconds closer to death.
And, worse, failure."
Jess is an actor, or will be, as soon as she hears back from her latest audition.
Mark works in the City, a trader who feels he's never really been 'pick of the bunch'.
The pair are a little under-ripe, but definitely fine almost some of the time, until the night they have an experience that threatens to peel away everything they thought they knew.
The fallout from this slip-up probes the extent to which we are accountable for our reflexes - and why some things make us go bananas.
A raw, discomfiting comedy about gender roles; Flinch takes an unabashed look at emasculation, failure and the struggle for intimacy.
From emerging company Sounds Like Thunder who have just returned from a sell-out, 5* run at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival of their show Kidding.
This play by Emma Hemingford has an autobiographical flavour to it, even if that might be completely coincidental.
The reason is that Ms Hemingford also takes on the role of a budding actor in her own piece, and her character ends up writing a play about the relationship she is (or was) a partner in.
It's actually not as confusing as I might have made it sound, but maybe you can see where this play hints at the story emanating from the playwright's experience.
Equally, it might simply be a completely fictitious piece.
Either way, this is a story about a relationship that starts to have a little more than mere teething troubles.
Mark and Jess are both 25 years old.
Jess is trying to break in to the acting profession, and Mark has a job as some kind of trader in the city.
They've not been living together for very long and since Jess is making no money, Mark has spun her a yarn about his former flatmate paying her share of the rent.
But it's a third character, armed with a banana, who leaps screaming out of the darkness in the first moments of the play.
This is a mugger - or perhaps a semi-maniacal prankster - who Jess and Mark encounter on the way home one night, and it's this event which leads to doubts surfacing in Jess's mind about Mark since he 'flinches' when confronted by the 'mugger' rather than immediately defending her from possible attack.
And so we find the mugger's apparition turning-up at different junctures during the remainder of the play, reflecting Jess's continuing uncertainty and doubts.
There's no significant reason that I could discern to explain why Jess has to be an actor - apart, perhaps, from a role she is offered that involves some nudity which does add an extra dimension to the conflict between the characters and layers further complexity on the logic of Jess's thinking.
In fact it would have been more generally applicable, and thus more powerful, if she had been given a completely different career, which would have avoided the incestuous vein that often arises when actors play actors, or other creative types from the world of theatre.
At one point during the play, Jess tells Mark that she doesn't know what she wants.
And that might just be crucially significant in what we discover in this play and one (obvious) explanation of why relationships fail.
Certainly, we find in Jess a young woman who seems torn - at least to some extent - between what she's looking for in her relationship with Mark and what she expects of him as both a man and a long-term partner.
But both characters demonstrate a significant lack of willingness to talk openly, rationally and honestly about their relationship - and that is certainly another big message that surfaces, though the play touches on multiple matters that can't all get the detailed analysis they deserve.
Peppered with natural humour and with well-defined, engaging characterisations from both Joseph Reed as Mark and Emma Hemingford as Jess, Flinch is thoughtful and provocative enough, even if it offers little in the way of truly innovative or fresh perspectives.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Old Red Lion Theatre
Our show listing for Flinch
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