“A play worth watching”
After a strong reception, Anna Ziegler’s new play makes its way across the pond to the Trafalgar Studios. Zeigler’s last play, Photograph 51, took to the West End is 2015 and now returns with ‘Actually’ – a one-act about two freshman college students who, after a night of drinking and flirting, enter a situation where consent is blurry, sexual misconduct is questioned and the truth becomes difficult to decipher.
This current play approaches its topic cautiously but does tip-toe around exactly what it wants to say. Ziegler does well in demonstrating the difficulties in finding where sexual consent begins and ends, but there is, eventually, no clear answer. The writing tries not to take sides in the debate, leaving the audience whether they support one, both or neither – where in the end, the character’s journeys just seem unfinished.
We meet Amber and Tom (played by Yasmin Paige and Simon Manyonda, respectively) as they start there new ventures at the prestigious Princeton University. Tom is a character who seems to have the confidence many wish they have but deep down whilst Amber’s character isn’t as expanded.
Tom’s background is delved into a lot more than Amber’s. We hear stories of his upbringing, his mother, his love of classical music and friends at college before we even hear one defining characteristic of Amber. At times, the mixture of monologue, dialogue and time-hopping soon becomes tedious and we hope for development in Amber and Tom’s story that never quite happens. Ziegler does a great job in making us invested in these characters but the payoff isn’t quite there.
‘Actually’, even though sometimes unbalanced and unclear, is an intriguing watch and a play worth watching due to its current relevance. The performances are strong and the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2 is a perfect setting for such an important piece.
Words: Tomm J Ingram