The analysis of a relationship is fairly common place in the theatre, but Luke Culloty’s Who They Were at the Etcetera Theatre adds an additional twist to the tale, because this relationship ended ninety, or maybe it’s a hundred, years previously. We know it was a toxic relationship, and as Florence eventually comes to collect her belongings from Eros things don’t look likely to improve.
We discover as the play progresses just how Eros and Florence attained their immortality, and it could be viewed as either a blessing or a punishment, but either way their continued existence requires them to consume fresh human blood. Eros has set up a suicide hotline, but it seems to be less about helping others, and more a device to get her next feed.
The real focus of Who They Were though is the dynamic of the relationship, and the characters having to face up to not just who they have been in the past, but who they hope to be in the future. The need for Eros to feed, does allow for a third character, Joe, to enter the fray. Ironically, our troubled protagonists become the very people handing out relationship advice to their potential victim.
The introduction of Joe does bring some much-needed life to the production, thanks to Ruby Herrington’s bubbly portrayal of a woman none of us are quite convinced is ready to end her own life. The pairing of Adela Rajnović and Lucy Abraham feels to be lacking some chemistry, and while we can clearly see the toll this life of immortality is taking on them, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand how they ever enjoyed any kind of life together at all.
Luke Culloty’s flair for teasing out a compelling and distinctive story shines through, and the themes addressed span more than is immediately obvious, but some of this great writing is lost as the characters either talk over each other, or project away from the audience.
Split Note Theatre have garnered quite a reputation for new and exciting theatre, Who They Were doesn’t currently reach the high bar they have set, but it certainly has the potential to achieve more with some braver staging.