Dirty Protest have got their filthy (but ever-so-skilful) hands on Katherine Chandler’s fearlessly written and deeply felt play, Parallel Lines, which won the inaugural Wales Drama Award last year. And, as is the case whenever Dirty Protest put on something, it’s brimming with ferocious intensity and unflinching controversy. Directed with daring nerve by Catherine Paskell, this is a play with a wicked sting in its tail.
The narrative follows the parallel lives of fifteen year-old, Steph (played exceptionally with sexually-charged audacity by Rachel Redford) and her teacher, Simon (Gareth Pierce; equally superb). The divide is established through Signe Beckmann’s split stage – on the left (subtly political, perchance?), Steph and her mother’s grubby kitchen, worktop contaminated by empty mugs and unwashed dishes; and on the right, the spotless, chic-er kitchen belonging to Simon and his wife, Julia (a suitably overwrought Lisa Diveney) who are two middle class teachers too preoccupied with their jobs to consider each other’s infidelities. Steph and Simon’s lives collide when an accusation is made but everything is kept delectably ambiguous, at least until the earth-shattering conclusion.
Chandler writes with unabashed obscenity during the tumultuous rows between Steph and her mother, whose tragicomic nuances are embodied by the brilliant Jan Anderson. During monologues, however, the writing style becomes somewhat poetic; for example, in describing Steph’s deepest emotions, Chandler applies beautiful expression that retains adolescent uncertainty as well as something quite lyrical and emotional. It has an air of experience about it.
This is yet another triumph for Dirty Protest. It is comforting to be in the knowledge that theatre so courageous and yet so authentic is being made right now. Here is a theatre company whose consistence trumps any I know of working in Britain today, and Parallel Lines is another gleaming badge for their already glittering lapel.