Guest Reviewer: Megan Hyland
UPSTAGED RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
In What I Felt Whilst Under You, David Gregan-Jones presents the beautifully crafted story of a husband struggling to conform to the restrictive stereotype of masculinity and a wife trapped in the tedium of suburban gossip, kid’s packed lunches and dull work parties. The play is set in Paul and Marie’s bedroom and begins with a compelling pre-show in which we watch Paul’s best kept secret unravel. But when Marie comes home early because she forgot something, she stumbles upon a side of her husband that she has never seen before. From that point onwards, we watch in real time as Marie struggles to come to terms with Paul’s secret, whilst also revealing some of her own.
Oliver Devoti gives an emotionally raw performance as Paul, breaking down the barriers of toxic masculinity and showing incredible vulnerability within the character. He is both powerful and enthralling in his delivery, drawing the audience’s empathy from the start. However, Clare Cameron certainly does not fall short here as Marie. Although as a character, Paul resonates more with the audience as he is at the forefront of the story, Cameron is equally as passionate in her execution. She brings a great depth to the character, exploring both her cynicality and sorrow. But for the play to work, the chemistry has to be there – and these two certainly have it. Whether they’re screaming at each other nose-to-nose or rolling over laughing, they tell a remarkably honest and believable tale of marriage. Their performances are so intense and intimate that at times as an audience member you almost as though you’re intruding.
The majority of praise, however, has to go to the writing. Although the set-up is simplistic – two actors and one set for an hour and twenty minutes – the story’s heart bursts through, keeping the audience gripped throughout. The play deals with a lot of heavy topics such as mental health, sexuality and toxic masculinity, but it does so delicately and masterfully with an injection of humour every so often to lighten the mood. David Gregan–Jones’ quick wit and skilful writing is at the epicentre of the play’s brilliance, though there are some pacing problems in parts where some tension-building pauses went on just slightly too long. A simple but charming detail is the subtle uses of lighting, sound and music by Liz Barker to create fireworks outside and the radio in the background. It’s not much, but it really heightens the raw emotion of the scenes.
Overall, What I Felt Whilst Under You is a compelling and elegant exploration of many modern-day issues that both men and married couples must face. In a charming little theatre in Ancoats, David Gregan-Jones will both captivate and educate you.
– Megan Hyland