On the topic of encroaching on space, Wisp and Nightmare do exactly that, stepping into Riley’s private moments with Rowan: talking to her, touching her and, at times, even pulling her out of embraces. I like the ebb and flow of their presence, and it’s the quieter moments that sit with me. I love the way that Lyons fidgets with the fabric of her pants while they watch from the edges of the space, and I love the moments where they simply sit next to her and rest their heads on her shoulders. There are moments of aggression from them too, and while this contrast adds some theatrical texture, in these instances the figures feel a bit too ‘other’, as though she is being stalked and attacked by complete strangers. As someone who struggles with anxiety myself, I fail to see the familiarity between Riley and the pair, despite their everpresence, and this makes it challenging for me to connect with her experience at times. This said, people experience anxiety in all sorts of ways, and this violent characterisation may echo other people’s relationships with anxiety. The costume design of these figures – the black and white face paint primarily – is a little predictable, which detracts a bit, and I would love to see a clearer distinction between the way that these two figures are characterised.
The intimacy between Lyons and Millar is one of the strengths of the show. They play off each other well and build some beautiful and poignant scenes. They are physically at ease with each other, kissing and cuddling like a real, comfortable couple. The only thing that makes me question whether I believe their relationship is that some of the scenes feel a little stilted. It’s hard to say whether this comes from the performance or from the scripted dialogue, but I want more of the weird idiosyncrasies of their relationship, because those are the bits that make it feel fleshed out and real.
Millar has a challenge in portraying the support figure in Riley’s life, and there are definitely moments where I can see the effect it is having on her character. Giving your all to a person and going under-appreciated because they don’t have enough mental and emotional space left to give back to you isn’t easy. But because Rowan is not a focus of the play, and also because the show is structured in a way that moves around different parts of their relationship rather than through it, I don’t feel like we know this character well enough. This means that, when Rowan reaches breaking point, I struggle to empathise in the way that I know that I am supposed to because I haven’t seen the vulnerability that I need to to properly connect with the character. Without this foundation, the lashing out almost makes me dislike Rowan, even though her feelings are perfectly valid. I would love to see her explored further so that we can get a fuller picture of the relationship and her character – something that is admittedly difficult to do in a vignette structure.
All of these things aside, Inquiet Moments does something important as a piece of theatre; it opens conversations about the healthy and unhealthy ways of managing our mental health and reminds us that the decisions we make, or don’t make, ripple out and impact people we care about.
Inquiet Moments is showing at Tapere Iti, Te Auaha, at 9:30pm until Saturday 14 March. I encourage you to go and see this show with friends and, more importantly, to talk about it afterwards. A reminder though: this show does depict panic attacks and might be distressing for some people. To book tickets, or for more information about other shows in the festival, visit the Fringe website.