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To Have and to Hold

by on 30 November 2021

Complex Beats of Modern-Day Romance

To Have and to Hold

by Michelle Payne

Savi Creative Arts at Barons Court Theatre until 27th November

Part of The Savi Emerging Arts Festival

Review by Denis Valentine

To Have and To Hold , as part of Savi Creative Arts’ Emerging Arts Festival, is a cleverly crafted work-in-progress piece that, at its core, is about exploring issues and occurrences in modern life and it’s dating world.  As a two hander and by its use of multi-role casting, it offers a chance to see events and thoughts from multiple different perspectives and how consequences for actions can have repercussions both positive and negative that change over time.   

The play, in terms of themes, explores modern relationships from a variety of different angles.  It achieves quite a journey by having its two actors, Iwona Marciniak and John Skerritt, playing not only multiple characters but also the same characters at different stages in their lives.  At times there are very recognisable beats of modern-day dating and the problems of living in a pandemic, but the play also touches on more adolescent and coming of sexual age issues that could be straight from modern popular shows such as Sex Education

With a set of just four chairs, the clever directing from Eliza Beth Stevens allows the actors to get the most out of Michelle Payne’s sharp and honest script written.  Marciniak offers well timed asides to the audience to keep them aware that she is taking them on the journey with her and Skerritt, at times, just by changing his voice and inflection does a great job at transporting the plain stage to places elsewhere.  As mentioned, the script from Payne is well constructed around some of the pitfalls and issues with modern dating, with circumstances that many in a modern audience will likely recognise – the dreaded text message reply being written only for the typing to stop. 

Skerritt has a very powerful scene towards the end where the mental stability of his character is in a very precarious position.  It is handled strongly by the actor, but also in the direction, having Marciniak deliver her lines for the first time off-stage and leaving Skerritt alone on-stage.  It really helps invoke and realise the feelings of loneliness that can come from such situations. 

The physicality of the actors is also very well handled.  The changes in form from Marciniak when she’s playing the same character, firstly as the conscious narrator – slightly nervous and unsure – but then as the object of John’s character’s desire – silent, alluring and mysterious – is a great subtle piece of physical acting. 

Each actor jumps between each of their characters very fluidly and it is a testament to their craft in multi-roleing that there is never much confusion as to who they are portraying in any given moment. 

The piece, with its minimal rehearsal and setup time, is slickly managed by all.  The lighting and music are for the most part well timed, although the frequency of which the musical interludes use different songs to usher in transitions and scene changes may get a little grating for some and it may work better to have a more default option for time or location changes. 

As the play is a current work-in-progress, there were certain moments that may need slight reworkings, especially at the end, where after the final moment there was a slight delayed pause as it was not fully clear to the audience that the show was at an end and ultimately led to the feeling of a slight missed opportunity to end the show on a defining note.

To Have and To Hold is a fine hour of theatre, that gives an interesting and relatable look into different states of the complexities and issues often faced in modern romance and modern life.  As a developing work, it is very promising and all involved should be commended for their efforts. 

Savi Creative Arts is currently offering a platform and opportunity to allow those in theatre a chance to showcase new and emerging productions.  With more developing work of promise like this, we can hope it will go from strength to strength. 

Denis Valentine, November 2021

Photography courtesy of Savi Creative Arts

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