Ben and Anna’s relationship start like every other: they meet, start sleeping with each other, get attached. At the beginning, he’s not convinced she’s the one – and after a few years, the expectations of both of them change completely. From the early “puppy love” stages of a relationship, through buying a coffee machine together to an emotional breakup, we follow the English teacher and a publicist through a few episodes from their life.
Travesty is a modern, refreshing take on the love life of twenty-somethings who live in the era of consumptionism. And the play picks everyday things to convince us about it: be it risotto, lemon tart, or a holiday together; all of these things are a proof of growing attachment rather than what we consider falling in love. It stands against the theory of little things: here, it’s much more about materialistic symbols of being together that are scrutinised and evaluated.
It isn’t short of tormenting feelings either, when the characters try to decide what is the right next step for them. It is also too relatable: who wasn’t on the path to finding themselves, trying to get a job they would love, making significant changes to improve their lives? It’s about making choices, searching and settling down, and many of those who watch the play will find themselves or somebody they know in the characters sooner or later. It’s to millennials; those with big ambitions and sophisticated taste, or those shaped by Made.com furniture and weekend newspaper supplements.
Witty and fast-paced, the play never offers you a pause to take a breath; the scenes are packed with clever comedy and interlaced with emotion. The daily life takes over – and thanks to the powerful delivery, the absurd attached to the reality becomes recognisable and brings many laugh-out-loud moments. Line by line, the scriptwriter Liam Williams makes us laugh at the stereotypes, but gives them a coat of a fresh paint before they’re presented to us.
Travesty also picks up on perceptions and expectations built around gender: the characters are played by characters of the opposite sex. The switch makes us pay attention to the stereotypes more: Lydia Larsen’s Ben seems to be much more relaxed about the relationship at the beginning and take things at face value, whereas Pierro Niel-Mee as Anna is a little bit more prudish, sometimes needy, often pondering a lot. At the beginning, it makes a powerful statement as it subtly distracts the audience – and as the story unfolds we can’t help but cheer Ben and Anna on.
The entire play is built around one bedroom – and deepens the feeling that we’re allowed to see something private, belonging just to two people and four walls. The simple setting emphasises the atmosphere, too. It’s the light that separates the episodes; also, slightly dimmed, faded out lights that add to the intimate atmosphere of the room. More is less – and we’re not distracted by unnecessary details when we’re given the heart-wrenching story.