*CW: Sexual Violence*
As the audience enters Symposium Hall where Theatre Paradok’s Catching Up takes place, four actors are sprawled around the stage, looking bored. It’s unclear if this is part of the show, which makes it slightly awkward, and at one point, the audience settles into an expectant hush a few minutes before the show is set to start.
Despite the shaky start, Catching Up soon develops into an intriguing tale that centres around two old friends with a shared dream of making it in Hollywood. They are attending a writing retreat to work on a script. From the start, it’s difficult to see why the pair are friends. Lemon is very serious, and is clearly fed up with Sean’s antics: a student that never grew up, he’s more concerned with spending the weekend drinking, and acting out vague ideas from the Mafia drama he is writing. He’s funny, and doesn’t take life too seriously, even bragging about the Netflix deals he claims to have received. Yet this takes a turn after he spikes her drink and he quickly becomes nasty, taunting Lemon with insults.
The premise of the plot is promising, but although all the actors gave strong performances, the execution falls short. The scenes of Sean and Lemon on their writing retreat are interspersed with flashbacks from them drinking in the park with Lily, Lemon’s partner, when they were teenagers. At times they interact, which sometimes makes the storyline difficult to follow. Most of the story is told through these interactions in the past and the present and movement, but at one point, young Sean addresses the audience directly, explaining that while he’s been known to drink too much, he doesn’t consider himself to be an alcoholic. Although it shows the arrogance of his character, it feels out of place with the rest of show.
The production tackles the theme of sexual assault well, and although the scenes are uncomfortable and difficult to watch, they are also respectful. The use of physical theatre is particularly effective in conveying the message to the audience. Even Sean, who flips from being seemingly harmless to extremely threatening in the blink of an eye, serves as a grim reminder that not everyone is as they seem.
Part of what makes this play so powerful is its relatability. We’ve all either been in Lily’s situation, watching someone we love deal with a toxic friend, or in Lemon’s, desperately clinging onto a friendship that’s long dead. We don’t find out for sure if Lemon cuts ties with Sean. But we don’t need to. Catching Up forces us to confront our own relationships with our old friends, and gives us permission to end those friendships that no longer serve us.
Words by Ellen Leslie
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