REVIEW: TRAVESTY (New Diorama Theatre) ★★★★


Liam Williams’s debut play, Travesty, comes to New Diorama Theatre after a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Williams is primarily known for his acclaimed stand-up shows. He was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Best Newcomer Award in 2013, and in 2014 his follow up show was nominated for the main award. Travesty is produced by Fight in the Dog, established with the intention of bridging the gap between the worlds of theatre and comedy. The company’s chief aim is to create work as funny as the best comedy and as thought-provoking as the best theatre and Travesty certainly achieves this.

Travesty portrays a couple of twenty-somethings who meet, start having sex and fall into a relationship. We first meet Ben and Anna in bed, early in their courtship; it’s clear that Ben is less invested in the relationship than Anna is. Over the course of the play, we follow the couple over a few years and watch their roles reverse; by the final scene, he’s in tears and she just wishes things could be different.

Williams takes an honest look at a relationship which is funny and unflinching. By swapping the gender of the actors playing the roles of Ben and Anna, he challenges our assumptions about assumed behaviours.

Lydia Larson plays Ben, approaching his thirtieth birthday, slowly realising that he wants to settle down with the woman he first dismissed as not serious enough and now believes to be ‘the one’. Larson embraces the role of the manly Ben despite her small frame; a moment when she mouths ‘I love you’ in the mirror before saying the words to Anna for the first time is especially touching. Pierro Niel-Mee is Anna, at first carried away at the beginning of the affair then coming to realise that she wants her freedom. His mannerisms and posture in the role are convincing, he lies curled up in bed, trying to sleep while Larson sprawls awake with a glowing laptop.

The writing is convincing, the bickering over disagreements large and small ring true. At times I forgot the actors were gender-swapped but this didn’t matter. Travesty shows that relationships are about people rather than gender and anyone who’s experienced a drawn out breakup will find some familiar scenes here.

It’s no surprise that Liam Williams has created an interesting piece of theatre; Travesty deserves a longer run.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Claire Haigh

TRAVESTY plays at the New Diorama Theatre until 10 September 2016