Darlings @ C Aquila

A refreshing and thoughtful exploration of a toxic relationship

Review by Helena Davidson | 31 Aug 2018

They say drunk words speak sober minds, yet in Eleanor Hope-Jones' intelligent and relatable play Darlings, it's the sober minds lying to themselves as Palomar Theatre’s production explores the manipulative and tumultuous relationship between Eve and Gabe. Their drunk mouths reveal truths their sober minds would never admit to; one second, they’re dying to kiss each other, the next they could kill each other as Gabe’s jealousy regarding Eve’s recent promotion, and Eve’s desire to bury her emotions through sex and drink, are exposed.

Tensions boil over as Toby Robertshaw’s sleazy and obnoxious Gabe flirts with a waitress as Katie Anderson’s Eve watches, with a look that could kill. Back at her flat, their argument can only be described as seductive yet venomous, punctuated by flashbacks to the innocence of the pair as children, using surprisingly beautiful puppets conducted by the waitress, played by Annie Philbin, who embodies the problems in their relationship, haunting Eve. Over increasing volumes of alcohol, the ‘sides’ become blurred, as both characters spit relatable emotional truths. The characterisation of Gabe is every manipulative boyfriend a girl has ever had, simultaneously praising, and criticising Eve. However, she is similarly problematic, unnecessarily creating a rift in their relationship to romanticise their pain.

Robertshaw and Anderson ricochet off each other, entwined physically and emotionally through displays of physical theatre, and Hope-Jones' soul-baring script. The relationship is undoubtedly toxic, shown by the red flags throughout: Eve obsessively cleans herself in the bathtub when Gabe isn’t present, and frantically checks her phone, before throwing it across the room (relatable). Their eventual break-up isn’t dramatic; in a moment of defeat, Gabe simply gives up and walks out, and we don’t blame him. Poignant and emotional, Darlings’ three-dimensionality is refreshing and thoughtful, and had me holding my breath throughout.

Darlings, C Aquila, until 27 Aug, £9.50-7.50

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