Perhaps the first year English ‘Drama, Theatre and Performance’ module has set my standards too high, but what Let’s Just Pretend had on offer left me slightly disappointed. Whilst a homely set is well created, it is difficult to see why a tree stems from the middle of a kitchen, and the audience is left to work out for themselves that the kitchen should, in fact, be invisible until Act 2. There is also a thin line between garish and decorative, and the fairy lights that were decorating the tree definitely trod that line.
As the audience enters, the protagonists (Mark and Caroline) sit on the stage, immediately introducing themselves as characters, and essentially beginning the play upon entering the auditorium. This is perhaps just as well, as the rather short scenes do not lend themselves well to getting to know the characters. A play with only two characters is always risky, but it has the potential to work really well if the audience can build up a rapport with them. This, unfortunately, could not happen in Let’s Just Pretend.
The phrase ‘spoken like a true teenager’ seemed out of place amongst odd phrases such as ‘The A-Levels’ and ‘the university of my choice’
Despite the ‘student-tidy’ kitchen (tidy for a student, not messy, but with the odd pot and pan lying around), I was surprised to find that the play was written by a student. The phrase ‘spoken like a true teenager’ seemed out of place amongst odd phrases such as ‘The A-Levels’ and ‘the university of my choice’, when most of us would drop the ‘the’ and just name our university. Furthermore, the swear words seemed slightly ‘crow-barred’ in, as if the writer had taken too literally one of those Creative Writing lectures in which we are reminded ‘it’s okay to swear in your writing!’ Finally, the awkward ‘honey’ or ‘dear’ tacked on to the end of phrases served to estrange the couple rather than unite them through affectionate names.
Mark has been unable to leave their youthful world of pretence behind, whereas Caroline recognises that their history doesn’t make a future
The natural actor is juxtaposed with a more stilted actress who attempts to act naturally, but does not seem quite able to achieve this. The overly adoring male character’s cringe-worthy speech concerning her face, and how he would paint it, also jars with that of the cynical female, who yells at her boyfriend for singing a few bars of a song in a public place.
When the deep and meaningful events of life come to light, and things go wrong, she utters the words ‘I do not want to pretend’, ruining the magic of hers and Mark’s childhood romance. Mark has been unable to leave their youthful world of pretence behind, whereas Caroline recognises that their history doesn’t make a future. The playwright’s art is in this simple message; we must love someone for themselves, and not for the image we created of them twelve years earlier. We shouldn’t hang on to the person who is our safety blanket because, as Caroline finds, this does not make us happy. Although I could not identify with the characters, the moral is accessible for any young person, and the play is well written and enjoyable.
‘Let’s Just Pretend’ is running at New Theatre until Saturday 7th March, for more information see here.
See the NSTV backstage video here