In The Fantasical Adventures of [Not] being with You, a funny, emotional look at falling in and out of love, performers Ryan Wichert and Max Wilson play that irritatingly happy couple you know. The ones who are completely in synch and have own little couple-y idiosyncrasies, cute games, coochie coo language and a meet-cute story to boot. They’re also the couple that you’re secretly glad exists. They provide relief when the world looks bleak. They embody hope and happiness and everything we aspire to. But the rest of the world will come a knockin’.
In this 90 minute-show directed with a deft hand by Justen Bennett and seamless movement from David Ralfe, the outside world is a persistent telephone call, never answered but frequently interrupting our two protagonists, A and B, causing them to argue. They argue over when to answer it and who will answer it, they talk about excessive hoarding of ketchup and the problem with smelling your food before you eat it, giving us the opportunity to connect our own trivial arguments to theirs. They even talk about the kinds of fish that fill the sea they’ve designed to distract themselves from that ever-ominous phone call. But it turns out, the things they don’t talk about are much more gripping.
They pivot flawlessly from silliness to heartbreak and back again, refusing to define the external issues that pull them apart and in doing so they gives us a canvas to lay our own issues on. With this, they also cleverly manage to simultaneously celebrate and remove the gender from their relationship. But there is a lack of balance here.
As these two characters relentlessly seek distraction and happiness, that’s the majority of what they present us with. But for me, their more intense moments really made this show stand out.
These all too infrequent moments are the ones with the fewest words, the ones where Ryan and Max’s acting prowess really comes through. When they’re quiet and contemplative they communicate much more than they do with their cookies and their bunny rabbit metaphors. Sweet and enjoyable though all those things are, it’s the darker moments that make me feel connected to these characters, their conflict and their belief. These moments also make me question my place as an observer of their private interactions. How much can we really know about the problems faced by those giddy couples we love to hate?
The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You runs at Blue Elephant Theatre until 7th July.
Image by Dougie Firth