Alex Rome Griffin enjoys Implosion, a play exploring sexuality amid the nostalgia of the 1960s, at the Durham Drama Festival.

Implosion by Issy Flower is being performed at Hild Bede’s Caedmon Hall and features Grace Brimacombe-Rand as Maev and Ollie Taylor as Peter. The venue is intimate to say the least, with the action never more than a couple of meters from the front row. This really leaves both actors with no-where to hide. Thankfully, both rise to the challenge admirably. The play focuses on the decaying relationship of Peter and Maev, two young adults who appear very much in love. They do all the things we might expect a couple to do; they go to parties together, they watch the television together, they kiss in cinemas, they have sex and they get married. Things are not to last though as Peter – the bookish but charming husband – finds comfort in the arms of another man. The topic of homosexuality, set against the backdrop of a less than tolerant 1960s society was sensitively handled, with frequent use of comic relief keeping things light hearted and preventing the action seeming too voyeuristic.

Both actors are highly accomplished. Brimacombe-Rand brings out the weariness of a woman whose hopes of life did not meet her expectations. She is, by turns, abrasive and sentimental; always judging her emotions well and carrying off an engaging performance. Taylor was equally polished; he brings out the complexity of a man who is fighting an inner battle whilst attempting to conform to what is expected of him. He does this with no small measure of Hugh Grant-like charm.

Keeping with this, the script is by and large very good; it is witty in all the right places and balances this light heartedness with a good glug of emotion. It does stray into cliché at times, but it seems self-aware of this. For example, there seems to be a lot of times that characters find answers (or don’t) at the bottom of a bottle. It would be easy to roll your eyes as such a hackneyed concept, but here it adds texture to the action as we are constantly reminded that this addiction is a symptom of their steadily failing relationship. There is also a certain matter-of-factness to the dialogue, it avoids being overly verbose and only seems to say what needs to be said. The one gripe that one might have with this is that it does, at times, seem a little cyclical. Lines are reused, whilst this adds a welcome sense of continuity, it can result in certain moments lacking punch. Emotions are built up and then knocked back continually, so much so that when the final confession of Peter comes, it seems to lack force.

The script is also aware that two hand plays are always somewhat limiting; it is hard to create a richly textured reality when the play is reliant on description rather than action. That being said, the actors deal with this well and keep a necessary level of self-awareness, frequently breaking the fourth wall to directly address the audience. These soliloquies draw us further in and we all feel like we are party to something very private. At times, these direct addresses to the audience do feel a little forced, but they work more times than they don’t. I would also posit that the script almost describes too much. Some sections of dialogue seem to drag a bit without really adding anything that couldn’t have been left to the audience’s imagination.

The staging is very minimalist. Considering the limitations of the space, the production team have done an admiral job in creating an intimate, domestic setting. The tech too, whilst kept to a minimum, was highly effective. The sudden inclusion of music, during one of Maev’s more melancholy scenes serves to underline the pathos and further demonstrate the pain she experiences.

You can’t fail to like this play; it is charming, considered and emotional. Both characters are profoundly likeable, despite their flaws and the subject matter is sympathetically handled. If you get the chance, it really is well worth a watch.