Written by Joanne Fitzgerald
Directed by Amy Lawrence
(TW: Transphobic language used in review to give context to the performance.)
Newly founded Lughnacy Productions presents this tale of conflicted confusing turns in a relationship, as a weary and cautious Bea (Orla Sanders) takes interest the vibrant young Jemima (John James). As their relationship develops Bea is forced to face what it is she really wants; to give Ellie (Leah Kirby) the commitment she so desperately wants or accept Jemima, all the time.
Her Not Him on the surface gives us a story about how conflicting relationships can be, how you compromise on each other’s want and how honest are you actually being. Under that is a look at the sexual politics surrounding relationships in the modern world. Bea and Ellie’s commitment issues run over the current of having kids and making a family as a gay couple, and Jemima faces the casual prejudice of life as a trans individual, casually being called ‘Tranny’ and other such names by Ellie without her actually asking Jemima about their identity. Another interesting aspect is the practicality of James/Jemima, such as not going as Jemima to breakfast the morning after just because it would take to long to get the look together. While all these are hinted at it is enough to leave audiences thinking and hopefully promote discussion.
Joanne Fitzgeralds’ script gives us all these ideas peppered throughout a slow-burning romance drama with a cast of equally flawed yet likable characters. At times some of the issues are presented a bit strongly but the last act rattles along in a swift and emotional finale that reveals all the characters inner cores that had been bubbling away from the start.
The cast slowly bring together and raise the drama of an unlikely and fractured selection of characters. Orla Sanders gives us a distanced yet soft Bea who keeps us wanting to find out the surface throughout, and gets us on side once those floodgates open. Bea’s partner is sparklingly portrayed by Leah Kirby managing the balance the line between energetic and annoying allowing you to empathise the difficulties in the relationship and later making the audience oscillate between wanting to leave her or keep her. The whole tumultuous drama is pulled together by Jemima/James’s brilliant portrayal by John James. From the moment Jemima enters she is shown as a sparky and optimistic character who you want to be friends with but still has vulnerabilities, later showing that they still have struggles too.
The show kept a good flow through some inventive and useful movement transitions between scenes that felt necessary rather than just covering the cracks, given more life by the score from Daniel Vildosola, which was all carried out on a very striking, fluid design full of dulled mirrors (Sophia Pardon) accompanied by stark lighting (Hakan Hafizoglu), allowing the performance to glow on stage.
Her Not Him works excellently as a view of some of the issues around sexual politics and the real impacts it can have, remaining a modern-day romance throughout rather than hammering you over the head with politics to give an enjoyable show that will leave you wondering about the characters after.
© Dan Ramsden – 2018 – @DanielRamsdenFL
Photo © Ali Wright