X tells the story of a crew who are based on Pluto and have lost contact with Earth. Unable to leave or send for help, they wait for someone to rescue them and slowly lose their grip on reality.
Set inside a research facility which was tilted causing the actors all to lean to one side. Merle Hensel’s design was of a studio flat; a little kitchen in a corner, an exercise bike int he other, a black square window in between, a dining table with chairs in the centre and a ladder with a wire and carabiner which the actors would attach to their belts before climbing the ladder and disappearing through a skylight. As the characters slowly lose their grip on reality the set becomes barren.
Nick Powell’s score was a chilling mix of low bass, high pitched whines and electronic music, whilst Tal Rosner and Lee Curran accentuated the mathematic side of the play with various numbers, lines and x’s being frequently lined across the walls.
Alistair McDowall explores the themes of nature vs man. It soon becomes clear that the crew have left Earth behind where trees and birds have disappeared, people live in bomb shelters and and the clocks go haywire, suggesting that time itself has started to dissolve. His writing flitted between a slow pace thriller to a play which grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until it gets the message. Excellent sounding yet he fails to pull this off. The audience becomes bored of waiting for the reveal that when it does come, you are left feeling unsatisfied that this is what you have been waiting for.
Due to the erratic writing, the actors worked with what they could, shining at some moments.
Rudi Dharmalingam’s Cole is presented as an arrogant know-it-all for all but five seconds where he breaks down and then is seen no more. Darrell D’Silva’s Ray is sexist and bitter for the most part, never evolving even after Gilda saves him after he attempts suicide, yet the audience feel his paranoia when he hears a little girl running and laughing through the bunker.
James Harkness’ Clark displays both arrogance and tenderness yet the audience do not see motivation behind the change in him. Clark is simply arrogant, moody and uncaring for the duration of Act I. Yet when Act II begins he has become softer; tactful, caring, nostalgic.
Ria Zmitrowicz’s Mattie is the token sarcastic, witty ‘cool girl’ throughout with moments of tenderness towards Gilda. Jessica Raine’s Gilda was fragile, anxious and in a state of constant near tears. She never stepped up to take control but relied solely upon the others to carry her weight.
Ultimately, an intersting premise which failed to deliver.
Director: Vicky Featherstone
Playwright: Alistair McDowall
Set Designer: Merle Hensel
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran
Composer & Sound Designer: Nick Powell
Video Designer: Tal Rosner
Cast: Rudi Dharmalingam, Darrell D’Silva, James Harkness, Jessica Raine and Ria Zmitrowicz
Photo: Tristram Kenton