For a play that’s only 45-minutes long, Terminal sure does pack a punch. Following young couple Fiona (Rosalind Watt) and Lawrence (Russell Dudley) as they cope with Lawrence’s tumour diagnosis – Terminal is heartbreaking, hilarious, and moving. Directed by Bruce Taylor and written by Aberdeen playwright Adam Coutts, the play uses movement and dance to depict this messy, loving relationship. Though it’s a play about cancer, which could so easily fall comfily into typical patterns, it was inventive and thrilling to watch, the actors commanding the attention of everyone in the audience with every quip, dance move or moment of silence.
The play began with an upbeat song, the actors telling the story of their characters’ relationship through dance and synchronised movement in a thoroughly awe-inspiring way. They made excellent use of the Barron space, minimal furniture allowing the actors to move freely in the small space. This type of movement – which included impressive lifts and mirrored gestures – is used throughout the show to transition between scenes, showcasing real emotions underneath the quick-paced wit of the dialogue. It was these moments of silent movement, the actors’ hands almost touching, that enthralled the audience, keeping the show grounded and reminding you of its title: Terminal. It will not have a happy ending.
That’s not to say the show was depressing, because it was far from that. Watt and Dudley’s chemistry was perfect, the two playing off each other with exquisite comedic timing and expressive physicality, creating a real, believable relationship. The heavier moments of the show, when Coutts’ script delved into profound musings, were tempered with comedy, keeping it from dropping into melodrama.
However, the play did fall into certain patterns. It wasn’t so much about facing a situation as it was about reacting to it, cycling through emotions as Fiona and Lawrence dealt with this tragedy. I kept waiting for something to change, for the plot to advance, but it didn’t, the couple stuck at this terminal destination. And while it was fascinating to focus solely on the human relationship when many “disease stories” are about hope and recovery, it did get somewhat repetitive.
Generally, the music choice was great, the first song showcasing the exciting, yet rocky beginnings to their relationship, and their sex playlist eliciting laughs from the audience. However, the last song used in the play, Birdie’s “Not About Angels,” which plays as Fiona and Lawrence dance together for the last time, Fiona ending up alone onstage, felt out of place. Maybe it’s just that I associate this song with The Fault in Our Stars, but I found it to be a bit derivative. For a play that was trying to bring something new to a “disease story,” this song choice felt out of place, fitting in perfectly with the genre Terminal is trying to change.
Overall, this show was beautiful to watch, the actors giving achingly lovely performances and the choreography drawing gasps from the audience. It was exciting and unexpected and devastating. It was simply a stellar piece of theatre.