Review: Afternoon Dramas – Lilo and My One and Only

Time is slipping away from me somewhat and so I’m going to cheat a little by lumping together reviews of Radio 4 Afternoon Plays into one post which might hide the fact they’re more mini-reviews than anything. I do like to diarise everything theatrical, such being the addictive nature of maintaining this blog, and so I wanted to tip the nod to these plays, Lilo by Katie Hims but particularly Dawn King’s most excellent My One and Only.

I first became aware of King with her darkly atmospheric play Foxfinder at the Finborough last year which I rather enjoyed, so was looking forward to My One and Only even before the announcement of the frankly fantabulous Katherine Parkinson as Layla, one of the lead roles in this tale about stalkerish obsessive love and the modern technological age facilitates that all too easily. A modern advancement of the epistolary form, this play is made up purely of phone calls yet King manages to build up character and mood in the most effective of manners as the tale twists and turns with jaw-dropping revelations and heart-stopping tension.

Struggling after the end of a torrid affair, Layla goes on a date with the unassuming Noah but though she feels no chemistry between them, he feels differently and proves rather hard to shake off. His attentions grow ever more persistent and soon no aspect of her life seems safe from him, so-far so-usual stalker thriller, but King takes this way further by contrasting Noah’s behaviour with Layla’s own reluctance to give up her married lover Ben or stop trying to contact him. What follows is a twisted tale of deluded passion, sordid manipulations, horrific decision-making and moments of genuine fear which I would highly recommend downloading from the BBC podcast.

Parkinson is excellent throughout as the lonely Layla, abrasive in her interactions with her friends who disapprove of her affair and seemingly uneasy in everyday contact with people. Carl Prekopp’s Noah makes a convincingly disturbed young man who will do anything for the woman with whom he is obsessed and Simon Bubb and Victoria Inez Hardy as the couple caught up in the twisted games also do well. A job very well done.

By comparison, Katie Hims’ Lilo was a more gentle affair, a ruminative tale of what might have been as childhood sweethearts Simone and Trystan meet up after 18 years and start to probe the intimacies and dark secrets of their shared past. Hims weaves together stories of the pair at ages 11, 18 and 36 from their schooldays together, to the growing of an unfulfilled teenage love between them, to their completely separate adult lives as the full truth about what has guided their relationship slowly hoves into view.  

I opted to listen to this purely on the strength of the cast: Trystan Gravelle is a wonderfully charismatic actor and Maxine Peake is on my (ridiculously long) list of actresses I adore and most importantly, both have the kind of characterful voices that are ideally suited to radio. I loved listening to them and their spirited interplay of their banter, but to be honest I wasn’t grabbed 100% by the story. Hooking around a traumatic act of violence which ultimately shaped the very path of their lives, I never really believed in it and so the piece ended up lacking credibility for me, though well-performed.

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