Described as a ‘modern-day Juliet and Juliet story’, Irish theatre company ILA’s Electric takes elements of the cliche love story and turns it into an exploration of sexuality that is charming and hilarious in equal measures. Northsider Joni (Ericka Roe) and Southsider Scarlett (Ali Hardman) meet at Electric Picnic, a festival that Joni can’t wait to get stuck in to and Scarlett can’t bear to be at a second longer. They instantly feel a lightning attraction to each other that they can’t explain – after all, Scarlett has a boyfriend and Joni doesn’t think she’s gay.
In this two-woman show, Roe and Hardiman fill the space masterfully as if there were a full cast. Unusually plain staging sees the two stand side-by-side, facing the audience rather than each other for the majority of the performance as they relay their characters’ inner monologues in perfectly-timed succession. This unusual choice of staging means that any movement can be used to great advantage, and indeed sets the scene where Joni and Scarlett meet while squashed together in a portaloo completely perfectly. The sudden close proximity of the actors builds the tension in the room and it’s impossible not to nervously giggle watching the characters navigate that proximity.
The downside of a small cast in this particular production is that the two actors must portray an entire festival’s worth of people and personalities by themselves. With no extra costumes or props to hand, only funny voices and mannerisms, the sudden swapping between characters takes the audience time to get used to. However, at the performance wears on, Roe and Hardiman get into their stride and so do the crowd. In a style that takes a great deal of skill, Roe, in particular, is absolutely riotous as she swaps from bold and brassy Joni to Scarlett’s unwitting, LSD-addled boyfriend, a testament to her broad repertoire as an actor.
A highly-charged production, Electric is witty, cheeky, and a refreshingly relatable take on the heart-racing awkwardness of young romance no matter your orientation. Although its unique style can make it hard to follow at times, Hardiman’s writing captures the essence of being young and lovestruck perfectly: with no perfect happy ending nor a gratuitous kiss in sight – but plenty self-doubts and new experiences – the story Electric tells is simply true to life.
Electric is on at Underbelly Cowgate – Delhi Belly (Venue 61)
At 17:40 until 25th August (excluding 12th)
Buy tickets here
Image: Tom Maher