There are paradoxes aplenty in Brad Birch’s concisely titled Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall at the Soho theatre.
Why, if the central couple are so in love do they barely speak to each other, instead addressing the audience with revelations about their lives and feelings? How can the script by Birch, one of Theatre503’s 503Five, be littered with more C words than page 328 of the Concise OED and yet be full of lines that have you catching your breath with their poetry? It shouldn’t work, and yet…
The story begins more depressingly humdrum than a wordless busker with a penchant for percussion. The lives of the central pair – Him and Her – are recognisably routine, all commuting, soulless jobs, pre-packaged food and existential revelations. But straws continue to be placed on the back of their collective camel of life; parents needing money, overtly and offensively sexist colleagues, the inevitable let down of clubbing on New Year’s Eve.
Rather than leading to a firearms-wielding explosion of Michael Douglas in Falling Down proportions, it triggers a similarly monumental implosion a little like a bedsit-set Lord of The Flies.
And yet – there are those words again – amid the depression both recognisable as the feelings we all fight some days at work and that stretch far beyond many of us, and despite the dislocated intertwining speeches, the love between Him and Her is a thing of beauty.
How Joe Dempsie and Lara Rossi, previously colleagues on the similarly segmented BBC drama Murder, create chemistry and one of the most convincingly passion-fuelled sex scenes I’ve seen on stage while spending most of the show’s 80 minutes gazing away from each other is a feat in itself.
So too is the way Birch creates a hint of hyper reality simply by restricting his use of contractions. Who knew hearing ‘He had’ rather than ‘He’d’ would, over the course of an hour, feel so disarming?
It’s a testament to the show that tomorrow when I wake up I’ll make a conscious effort to break the mindless routine, to find a moment of real joy rather than sleepwalking through the commute. And yet…