untranslatable is a newly devised play about a young couple. A man and woman (Matthew Graham and Laura Douglas) go through the various stages of romance: love drunkenness, desire, hate; the whole shebang. It’s a composite look at the layers of a relationship, but that’s the downfall: the 90-minutes feels like a breathless sprint.
The set looks like a giant duvet, a sort of domestic cloud, and most of the action takes place in their bedroom, which becomes an intimate shared area. The self-absorbed dreaminess of the couple is immediately apparent: they dance around each other, look longingly into each other’s eyes and kiss passionately. Prepare yourself for cutesy exchanges ad nauseam.
There’s not an awful lot of context, so you just have to guess a lot. Douglas’s character is wild and quirky, often unable to fully express her emotions. Graham’s character is vaguely anti-establishment, eschewing the idea of marriage. They talk about the universe and lightly touch on some philosophical topics. There’s some humour in their franker conversations: uneasy talk about sex, playful teasing and such. However, it’s difficult to respectfully follow the sequence of interactions, since one scene of levity can be quickly obliterated by an explosive argument. The problem of the ambitious narrative is compounded by the non-linear style, which confuses rather than illuminates.
The man’s father dies, he sleeps with a colleague, and he discredits marriage as an institution. These things are strung together in a most bizarre way. The father dying just doesn’t have the appropriate gravity. There isn’t enough context to care about this: we never meet the father, and it just seems like a surprise tangent so that the grief can be touched on. Sincere themes enter and leave with the speed of a bullet. In addition, the outside world is inadequately encountered; no real talk of mundane and quotidian occurrences: small distractions that would add a sense of reality. The intense focus on themselves consumes all the oxygen.
I found myself wishing for some sort of trauma to end the relationship. This happened, but in a rather unconvincing way: they’d been drifting apart for some time and he’d cheated, resulting in a Hollyoaks-style clash, which signalled the love’s unfortunate demise. The whole thing is a bit of a rollercoaster, charging through a lot of material, and sadly leaving a lot of it feeling incomplete.