Two actors are bathed in shadow onstage as the audience takes their seats, with the distant sound effects of traffic filling the theatre, to set the city scene. The lights go up to reveal two young men.
We have Henry, a university student who expects rather a lot from himself both physically and academically, anxiously questioning everything and struggling to navigate the ‘simplest’ of tasks. The flipside of the coin is Jamie, whose self-deprecating dialogue reveals his character to hold little self-belief in light of his father’s failings, and instead looks to make life better for his bright younger brother.
Their stories were portrayed in the form of interweaving monologues, detailing two storylines running parallel to one another. The actors occupied the same narrative space onstage for 45 minutes, and with every moment exposed, the movements were synchronised perfectly; you could tell that this was not a result of last-minute or half-effort rehearsals. As they swapped between monologues, one led the scene and the other would assist with their story, using physical theatre to personify a sub-character and help with bringing the monologue to life.
After observing the development of the script and its overall effect, I can easily understand why writer Laurie Ogden is commended for her modern and accessible writing style. The dialogue was endearing, thought-provoking and, at times, rather sad, ricocheting between the characters’ stories and giving snapshots away of their differing circumstances. Several of the scenarios were particularly raw and relatable: calorie-counting, suffering with anxiety, difficult family relationships, trouble at work, financial instability, and more. Antonym Theatre Company claim to work on projects that are ‘universally relevant’, and I would agree this is an accurate description of the work they produce.
Both Christopher Brown (Jamie) and Jeremy Franklin (Henry) revealed themselves to be extremely versatile actors. Brown was particularly strong at commanding a room, especially in his character’s more emotional moments, and I could feel the intensity of the audience’s concentration as they hung off his every word. As the drama unfolds, Brown reveals Jamie’s surprisingly profound and many-layered character, demanding a skilful portrayal of difficult emotions. Whilst Ogden does not explicitly give a name to Henry’s collective issues, it is implied that he may be on the spectrum of one or more conditions, and Franklin was excellent at embodying a complex character who is battling a number of psychological issues (anxiety, early signs of an eating disorder, social awkwardness etc.), conveying these matters with great care and respect. I noticed a strong professional connection between Brown and Franklin, who have clearly developed a bond that translates with crucial effect to a performance where synchronicity and communication is paramount to its success.
What struck me most about ‘Twix’ was the message it conveys about the complexities of interweaving life stories. It is so very easy to get wrapped up in your own story: the struggles of everyday life, your own anxieties, agendas and goals – but every person you meet has these too; different in content but just as relevant and important as yours.
Having just been exposed to Henry and Jamie’s intimate thoughts and feelings, the audience observes as these strangers’ entire lives are summed up in two lines at the close:
‘Jamie: “I’ve got a gun.”
Henry: “I’ve got a twix.”’
There is something painfully bittersweet about our realisation that these characters know nothing about each other’s stories, but of course, why would they? They’ve only just met. Yet, if they knew about the lead-up to this meeting on the train, as we do, would they understand each other better? I found this to be a very poignant observation on human nature. In this ever-changing world of fierce politics and dividing classes, searching for common ground with others and feeling a willingness to communicate has become more crucial than ever.
There’s a saying along the lines of; “Every person you meet is fighting an invisible battle you don’t know about” – and this is exactly what this play represents.
Reviewed by Laura Evans