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Review by Sophia Rahim
If you’re having difficulty envisioning what a play entitled Goth Weekend might be like, then imagine a version of The Notebook starring Marilyn Manson, and featuring considerably more cacophonous guitar music than one might expect. If this thought leaves you with a growing sense of curiosity, then this play is probably for you.
Ali Taylor’s latest offering is essentially a love story, albeit one wound tightly around a variety of intersecting themes, ranging from sexual and visual identity, to the complexities of grief, with Taylor even touching on issues of disability through his characterisation of Kenneth’s wheelchair-bound daughter, Anna.
As you have probably begun to suspect, Goth Weekend is a helter-skelter of themes and ideas. While this can, at times, be thought provoking, the play is often in danger of overloading itself with material that it does not have the time to explore in depth. As a result, much of the action is sidelined in favour of extraneous conversation, merely in order to pack all of these ideas into the allotted time frame.
There is also a sense of predictability to the story line that detracts from the entertainment value of the play as a whole. In typical rom-com style, the impact of the characters’ revelations at the end of the performance are diluted by the fact that the audience knows what is going to happen – each arc has been set up in such a way that there can only be one conclusion. We therefore find ourselves in the paradoxical position of having arrived at our destination before the journey has ended.
In spite of these shortcomings, however, the play remains an enjoyable and endearing piece of drama, largely down to the colourful performances of the lead actors. Jessica Johnson is particularly notable in her role as Belinda, bringing a child-like intensity to the stage, and skittering around precariously (on a pair of really quite gorgeous high heeled boots) with all the force of a belligerent tornado. The actors also do well to draw out the relationships between the characters, evidencing the close bonds between parent and child through deceptively simple gestures. In fact, one of the strengths of Taylor’s writing is his ability to merge the simplicity of the every-day with much weightier issues, adding a playful element to what would normally be considered heavy subject matter.
There are also some very funny moments, often centering on Kenneth’s bizarre transformation from hardcore plumber to hardcore Goth. His descent into the world of black eyeliner and studded boots seems ridiculous from the perspective of the audience, something that Kenneth is blissfully unaware of in a highly comedic fashion. In fact, the most affecting moments within the play are the ones in which sadness is offset by comedy, a device that increases the impact of the more emotional scenes.
So in spite of its overly ambitious aspirations, Goth Weekend is worth a watch, particularly if you’re in the mood for a spot of unconventional romance, fishnet tights and an obscene amount of black makeup.