Two lovers stand at either end of the stage, guns aimed at each other’s heads. They fire, the lights drop. The remainder of the play narrates Anna and Gabe’s journey toward this climactic point – their meeting in a suicide support group, their turbulent relationship and suicide pact– returning full circle at the end. A pleasing, but predictable framing structure.
“Lover’s Suicide”, written by James Biondi, is one of the four plays to have won Oxford University Drama Society’s New Writing Festival and a coveted slot in the Burton Taylor Studio.
Student scriptwriter Biondi’s aim was to create a piece that told an old story in a new way. It is an hour-long exploration of suicide, love, isolation and death through the characters of Gabe, a struggling writer with little direction in life and Anna, a pharmacist with a tendency towards pill overdoses. However, it seems that in his attempts at originality, the scriptwriter got stuck somewhere between comedy and seriousness, because the play is neither uproariously funny nor particularly poignant.
On to the script. There are certainly some moments of clever dialogue. “If it weren’t for suicidal people I would want to kill myself”, Anna asserts. Work that one out… And moments of humour, too. Gabe concludes his romantic guitar serenade to Anna with a very unromantic “I need a wee”. Mostly, though, the script is mundane and unexciting.
On the whole, the acting is good, especially in the more minor roles. Nathalie Wright gives a sympathetic performance as Gabe’s lonely, concerned and slightly wacky mother and Doug Taylor is very comical as the pink-floral-shirt-wearing eager-to-please support group leader. The main roles are weaker. Though they are playing supposedly suicidal personalities, neither Gabe (Calam Lynch) nor Anna (Jenny Flynn) come across as convincingly depressed and their acting is a bit too reminiscent of A-level drama. Their decision to end each other’s lives is almost as forced as their sporadic snogs.
The conclusion is not at all satisfying. Of course, suicide always leaves the living with questions. But none of the characters in the play are developed enough to give the audience enough food for deep analysis. It feels like the writer simply hasn’t finished thinking it through – and ends only on a note of lazy ambiguity.