An eerie and sinister score underlines In Addition. It is disconcerting and quite sad, pervading through the main story, adding towards the emotional density until the central relationship nearly collapses from the weight. Things pile upon each other in In Addition, the music being another layer to this evocative and tender look at modern relationships.
In Addition is set in a world where the NHS has been privatised. Rather than making this the focus, it is presented as a background detail, easily forgotten amid the frenzy of the actual plot. Instead, In Addition focuses on Ben and Sheyna, a young couple struggling against their post-university responsibilities and their parents expectations. While Sheyna is preoccupied by her frustrated journalistic career and her ailing father, Ben’s issues are more internal, annoyed that his own father does not understand his online video ambitions, and hampered by his own mental health. Health is a key concern for In Addition, lacking an NHS showing a deficit in communal, subsidised care and empathy. While Ben and Sheyna seemingly have a tender relationship, their dynamic is imbalanced through Ben’s constant self-pity and need for reassurance. While he admires Sheyna’s caring attitude, Ben fails to reciprocate any support back towards her.
This relationship’s toxicity is not immediately apparent, due to the nuance and believability of its two performers. As Ben, Tom Mason brings this mixture of arrogance and anxiety, being aware of his shortcomings but unable to healthily change them. He is not a cartoonish villain, but rather a realistic character, whose insecurity prevents him from seeing past himself. Rachel Elizabeth Coleman is also fantastic as Sheyna, her own insecurity rooted in the happiness of others, possessing a vulnerability which she carries inside her, alongside everything else. Together, the pair are a delicate couple, having a clear understanding of each other, which only makes them more able, even accidentally, to touch upon their open nerves.
In Addition is a specifically millennial story, the introduction addressing their generations political apathy (which resulted in the NHS privatisation). It features online notifications being read aloud throughout the show, adding detail that grant substance and weight to their lives. This technique also highlights the growing “generational gap” between the couple and their parents, although this same divide could be applied to Ben and Sheyna, whose relationship deteriorates through the play. So often it seems the two are unable to reach each other in conversation. For sections, In Addition descends into stylised physical theatre, and in these moments the pair twist around each other, providing an intimacy that it seems words cannot.
The physical theatre is an example of In Addition using its sparseness well. Situated in the cavernous Iron Belly of the Underbelly Cowgate, the stage is basically bare. The only two actors carry small lights, which are creatively used for set design and scene setting. Although sometimes it feels In Addition could have gone further with its productions, pushing its actors or setting into increased stylisation, instead of only having flickers of it. Furthermore, while the emotions are vivid they are also subtle, the show being a slow-burn character study rather than anything too precise or bold. Additionally, while writer and director Daisy Minto prevents the show from wallowing in middle-class ennui (where central concerns are ‘my parents will stop funding me’), it does veer dangerously close.
But In Addition forgoes shallow problems, or direct political statements, to aim for something more subtle and engaging. It’s invocation of the NHS is a call for care and consideration, to balance responsibility toward yourself with help towards others.
Underbelly Cowgate – Iron Belly (Venue 61)
Until 26 August
Photo credit: Daisy Minto