From the moment we enter the claustrophobic Pilch, the audience is confronted by a massive, overhanging projection of a sleeping face – always a disconcerting start. It’s only when I sit down that I realise that this is of a couple sprawled on a mattress, and only when it’s picked up by the cameraman (‘played’ by Luke Wintour) that I realise it’s in fact live. It’s an unusual start to an unusually named play. Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? is a show which takes the phrase ‘politicians in bed together’ and runs with it.
It’s a performance that will best be appreciated by those with a working knowledge of the American political system, although this is hardly a requisite as a painful, chaotic, and curiously intimate relationship unfolds on stage and screen. A flurry of references and statistics are flicked around in pinball-motion, many of which go over my head; however, as we move forward in time to 9/11, torture, and climate change, the audience inevitably becomes more familiar with the events discussed, building the tension up beautifully for a powerful, heart-breaking final montage.
The script is at times more poetic than conversational, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the conversational turns were made a touch sharper. But, at the same time it’s this careful pacing which gives weight to each word, making the whole thing feel slightly surreal despite the intimacy of the two actors. Pelin Morgan as the British ‘Guy’ and Charithra Chandran as the American ‘Sam’ both give exceptional performances with startling chemistry. Despite the warning signs you can’t help but be drawn towards this convulsive relationship as they cuddle and kiss, discuss the bombing of cities, and recount the numbers of civilian deaths. It’s a terrible thing to be drawn towards, and yet that’s what makes it so compelling. Chandran’s character is clearly in charge, charming both audience and counterpart. She is at times genuinely frightening, but there is a clear sense of direction from both and something to be said for Morgan’s quieter, emotive performance. At times the performance edges into dance, the two using the full breadth of the stage to create a genuinely boundary-breaking performance.
It’s clear, however, that the focus has been on the technical side of things, with an incredibly talented crew. The show is a multimedia extravaganza, with a soundscape as overwhelming as the projection which is constantly pinned to the back wall. Though initially sceptical of what a cameraman can bring to such a personal dynamic, its value within the piece soon becomes fully apparent. Every facial expression is able to be captured from the perfect angle, something which a three-sided stage alone is never quite able to do. Snapshots of pre-recorded film both take centre stage and play unobtrusively in the background, ladled with symbolism– I’m not sure what the significance of a bathtub of black water is, but it certainly made me feel uncomfortable. At times the whole thing feels more like a film than a traditional play, but a play isn’t something this show ever claimed to be. It’s genre-crossing, innovative and well executed, making the most of every medium it involves to genuinely impressive effect – it’s the type of thing I’d be interested to see more of in the future.
At times it gets a bit too caught up in its own symbolism – I was unsure if the exposed cameraman was meant to imply political surveillance or was just a physical necessity, and references to in-universe family and to Trump and May complicated what the two characters were exactly meant to represent. Yet even when you don’t fully understand it, the effect is undoubtedly compelling. The combination of visual media and emotive performance produces beautiful moments of tableau which stick in the mind, and each scene brings something different, whether it be a condemning news report, an intergalactic journey, or a frightening full-screen interrogation. It’s clever and bold, and all the better for it.