In Replay, Onstage Tonight Productions attempt to tackle some weighty themes including paedophilia, suicide and loneliness. Clearly Replay is ambitious in its scope – that’s a lot to take on in just one hour. However, it’s too heavy-handed to be effective, and the characters fail to develop enough depth to make them sympathetic or plausible.
The audience are introduced to Freya, a piano teacher who begins to confess to her friend Julia about events of the last year. All of this revolves around a vulnerable boy, James, whose sister Elaine has recently committed suicide. As his piano teacher, Freya becomes increasingly obsessed with James and tries to fill the void left by Elaine’s death. There’s an ambiguity as to the nature of Freya’s obsession but either way she preys on his frailty, growing progressively more sinister. Unfortunately, Freya also gets progressively more unsympathetic and hard to watch.
Throughout there’s a chorus of three individuals who taunt her and play the roles of James’s mother. As Freya starts to descend into a kind of madness, they do a good job creating a menacing atmosphere of confused thoughts, but this is to the detriment of general character development – there just isn’t enough time spent on actual characters.
For me, much of the dialogue was stilted and unrealistic to the point where I was unable to empathise with Freya, particularly as her facial expressions were a bit too happy and out of context. Some of the rationale was hard to follow too – James’s mum turns on Freya for basically bringing James a sandwich, and whilst the audience knows that this is just the tip of the iceberg, her reaction was unlikely based on the little evidence she had.
Overall I felt the concept has a lot of potential, given the innocent connotations of a middle-class piano teacher in contrast with the reality of Freya’s obsessive and predatory personality. But for me it just wasn’t dealt with in a convincing way, mainly due to the dialogue. The chorus was an interesting technique to explore the play but it was not used as effectively as it could have been.