Throwing contemporary city-dwelling coupledom under the spotlight, Us is an incisive new play at the White Bear Theatre
“Why do you do that?”
It’s the little things. Like using up the kitchen roll when there’s no toilet paper, or not getting some milk when the carton’s run out. The opening scene of David Persiva’s debut play Us is a masterclass of passive aggressive jabs as a woman returns from a long day at work to find her partner of three years on the sofa not doing very much and a humdinger of a fight starts to rumble.
But it’s also the big things. Arguments about not having tidied the flat can’t hide the frustrations she feels about essentially subsidising his abortive attempts to make it as a writer. Or his frustrations at the impact of her vegan lifestyle on them (and their cat). What could even have brought this pair together? As the lights flicker, we loop back three years and get to find out.
Persiva’s rather neat conceit for Us is that we get to witness the first 30 minutes and last 30 minutes of this relationship and as we bounce between the two timelines, the totality of a love story is told. The meet-cute full of the promise of heady all-night conversations, the fallout when those very same words are wielded against you like a weapon. It’s intricate and intimate and highly effective in David Frias-Roble’s production here.
Persiva has a real gift for the natural flow of the dialogue here, whether soul-bearing or slanging matches, and his onstage chemistry with Naoimh Morgan (a truly compelling physical presence) can’t help but draw you in. He’s also responsible for an extraordinary scene which covers sexual consent in a mature and authentic way, not as a tubthumping issue but as lived experience from which we (hopefully) learn.
And even with a final note of possible optimism, it’s the sense of rueful pragmatism that chimes the loudest. In the detailed clutter of Maeve Reading’s effective set design, the realities of contemporary city-dwelling coupledom bite hard.