Opening on a stark illustration of love gone stale, The One’s vociferous couple are introduced during an assaultingly disinterested sex scene. It doesn’t take long for the thinly glued strands to come undone. Jo and Harry are either perfectly suited or diabolically opposed. Toying with the sympathies of the audience, Vicky Jones’ play gives us moments of beautiful connection, to be snatched away by their unpredictable dynamic. Staying up for news on the birth of her sister’s baby, fuelled by wine, restlessness and frustration, Cassandra Sawtell simply shone in the role of Jo, whose bitchy, twisted theatricalities savaged those around her.
The evening descends into a sick game of one-upmanship of who can hurt the other more. As they methodically tear chunks from one another, there is no denying how toxic the relationship has become. Into this war-zone stumbles Sasha Cayzer’s fragile and distressed Kerry, who claims to have been ‘sort of raped’ by her long-term boyfriend. Her timid crush also provides the catalyst for much of the play’s social commentary. Jo’s jealousy leads her to focus her vindictive and punitive mind at Kerry in a rant over consent and sexual abuse that is brazenly, astoundingly ‘incorrect’. That these offensive suggestions on such a sensitive topic come from the mouth of an educated, assertive and seemingly intelligent female character only adds to the uncomfortable dramatic atmosphere which the audience, and Kerry are stranded in. One watches, the same as her, dumbfounded and deeply disturbed at the lengths these lovers will go to scratch the other’s heart.
As the night progressed, the darker and more demanding the psychological games became. The One asks a lot of the actors, but Sam Coade, as the sympathetic yet controlling Harry, and Sawtell’s Jo demonstrated remarkable instinctual chemistry that embodied a relationship gasping for breath with intensity and danger. A survivor of sexual abuse may view the increasingly violent carnal playing with consent as a step too far towards self-indulgence. Yes, it means that this piece can appear perverted, and lines are blurred in demonstrating how far from themselves this relationship has pushed them.
Are these two people merely monsters, or is it the insipid culture that surrounds them? The preoccupation with porn, reality TV, alcohol, or any other form of distraction helps them forget they are directionless, and don’t know what they want except not to be alone. Trapped in their self-made and heart-breaking climate of mutilation, the only thing left to do is to go one step too far.
The Edinburgh University Theatre Company has presented Vicky Jones’ representation of 21st century ‘relationships’ in terrifying technicolour. A confident, brave and powerful performance which leaves any witnesses stricken, and struggling to come to terms with the fallout.
Photo Credit: Edinburgh University Theatre Company