FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2023
Slippery When Wet
Photo courtesy of Emma Copland
A taut, fluid and ultimately divine tragicomedy of trial and error, Slippery When Wet, penned and performed by Leanne Devlin and directed by Emma Copland, is concise, one-person perception theatre at its most truthful, open, intimate and hilarious. Its appeal lies in how it meticulously elevates the appeal of a most recognisable moment in life to the level of empathetic transcendence, a love story of sorts chronicled in its complex immediacy, burgeoning growth and devastating halt. It is, in essence, The Divine Comedy's Our Mutual Friend, but with the gradual pleasure and sudden pain both converted and expanded from musical poetry into energetic, expressive narrative. It's a bittersweet symphony with force.
Forced to move back home with her parents after her acting aspirations have been stifled by reality, our heroine, played by Devlin, is working as a cleaner in a local supermarket to make ends meet. Desire has been visibly impacted by reduced expectations, and Devlin impressively depicts this in the opening ten minutes with a distinctive bluntness and frustration that compels in its discomforting amusement. While one already laughs hard, and often, they are entirely with the trajectory of the story, which is vital when Devlin takes a diversion into slightly more serious territory.
That territory would be her character's sudden and growing attraction to a certain work colleague, who she literally names "Love" – with a capital L! The emphasis on the first letter is wholly believable, the joys and agonies of the unexpected presented as a means of the confidence which builds, but also the fear which arises, from unplanned change and the challenges it brings both in one's profession and with people. Her pursuit, and experiences with, the object of her affection and whether he returns the favour or not, comprise the majority of the play, smartly illustrating what one misses and doesn't miss from the concept of "love" as the exciting yet unstable projection of hopes into the idealised and unknown.
When our heroine implies that she would rather live in a state of being half wanted than not being wanted at all, relays her feeling of waiting for the text message or social media notification that she wants to hear, and explains her experiences both with intimacy and the lengths she will go to in order to truly feel love with "Love", one can't help but develop a resonant connection with her plight. We learn, as we hope she does, that enduring bonds in love and life aren't just about depending on a succession of temporary highs, but finding a base of trust and dependability – and it is to Devlin and director Copland's credit that we remain both amused and compelled throughout.
Slippery When Wet runs at the Naughton Studio in Belfast's Lyric Theatre until Friday November 10. For more information, click here.