Digging around for some clues as to the meaning of the title of this new play by Jack Thorne, I find that the name belongs to a family of large flies, otherwise known as mydas flies. One peculiarity of these winged wonders is that they mimic stinging insects such as wasps. Presumably, the idea which nature has built-in to these creatures' lifestyle is that if they don't have a sting of their own, they can pretend they do and thus ward-off attacks from potential predators.
Marian (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and David (Keir Charles) are a couple coping with the aftermath of a traumatic and tragic event. Though we are never given explicit details as to the causes of that event, we do learn that their child has died. Though we yearn to know more, Jack Thorne gives us enough information to be able to consider the central question: how do we cope with grief?
The action of the entire play is set in the bathroom of David and Marian's home. And when I say bathroom, I mean a bathroom complete with running water that fills up the bath which sits centre-stage and in which the actors spend almost half the play together. That means, of course, that they have to take off their clothes. Now nudity has been a feature in several West End productions recently and in the past, so one might be tempted to think that we are all getting rather blasé about seeing actors naked on stage. But apparently not, because only two days ago the BBC ran an article about how actors cope with having to remove their clothes in full view of a paying audience. Thanks to sensitive and sensible direction from Vicky Jones, the nudity here feels entirely normal and natural and, indeed, central to the plot. It is in this bathroom that David and Marian are at their most vulnerable. In a sense, it is in this location where they have nowhere to hide, and where they have to face each other's guilt-ridden grief.
The performances are first class with well-defined and well-contrasted characterisations. Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Marian certainly has some waspish qualities, and almost from the start seems to provoke her partner, though at first we do not understand why. She is more articulate than Keir Charles's David, who struggles to express himself and get his point of view across even when talking business on the phone to colleagues. Overall, what we discover are two individuals coping with their grief in different ways and failing to communicate and understand their feelings.
'Mydidae' had its premier at the Soho Theatre last December and since we do not get nearly enough drama in the West End, this is a welcome transfer which gives another chance to see this quality, thought-provoking and intelligently-written drama. Though it is a short play at around 70 or so minutes, it felt rather longer, perhaps because it packs a huge amount into that time. There are a couple of well-executed, brilliantly-timed shocks during the second half and there is a surprising amount of humour too in Jack Thorne's hugely compelling script. Terrific stuff.