Frantic Assembly Still Moves With The Times In I Think We Are Alone

I Think We Are Alone, Theatre Royal Stratford East ★★★★☆

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Frantic Assembly Still Moves With The Times In I Think We Are Alone I Think We Are Alone, Theatre Royal Stratford East 4
Photo: Tristram Kenton

Comedian Kathy Burke and physical theatre troupe Frantic Assembly might not seem the most natural of bedfellows, but Burke’s co-direction of Sally Abbott’s new play about love, loss and loneliness deftly draws out a vein of humour that is the saviour of a play which would otherwise be irredeemably bleak.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

I Think We Are Alone has six characters marooned in unenviable situations: a young mum with cancer; an estranged pair of sisters haunted by childhood trauma; a bereaved taxi driver; a mother and son navigating a codependent relationship and Oxbridge imposter syndrome. The fragmentary, exposition-heavy monologues that begin the play are spliced with movement, as wheeled monoliths of blocky glass boxes lit with fluorescent bulbs cut across the stage. The effect is clinical, even surgical, characterising an incisive exploration of human emotion. Principally, here the patient etherised upon the table is loneliness: the human longing for comfort and understanding in an austere modern world.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

By the end of the first half, it seems like there is too much to be resolved satisfyingly from these six loose threads. Yet the denouement successfully sews them up into an elegant resolution; the various stories intersecting and fulfilling one another. Woven throughout, Frantic’s signature movement sequences are slick as ever. The working day of a hospice nurse is conveyed through the objects handed to her, a figure writhing in a taut bedsheet, a man swept into the air by the tilt of one of the large glass boxes.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

Frantic Assembly’s reputation as one of the most influential theatre companies of the last 25 years is largely justified by the piece, and further enhanced by Burke’s direction. It’s a testament what can result from a counter-intuitive creative pairing, and perhaps a sign that more heavy dramas should be directed by comedians.

I Think We Are Alone, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, E15 1BN. Tickets £10-£35, until 21 March 2020.

Last Updated 02 March 2020