Jessica Smith and Sylvia Cogher discuss the tough themes in Studiospace’s It Stays on Your Conscience.
Entering into an environment of industrial, urban space, the audience was immediately faced by an oppressive atmosphere of surveillance, created by the use of live stream CCTV setup.The storyline of the hour-long student-written, directed and produced play was based around two characters- Eli (Charlie Mitchell) and Maia (Amy Iles), who were volunteering in an ‘escape-room’ situation.
However, from the outset, the situation in which the characters were placed is ambiguous. Shut up in a dimly lit warehouse, reliant on the use of dodgy walkie – talkies and torches, the pair and the audience are suspicious from the outset. Initially distracted by the light-hearted dialogue between Eli and Maia, the opening scene is jovial but with ominous undertones, the audience find themselves questioning why the characters are in such a dark, oppressive environment.
using projections on large screens helped to shed light on the previous life-altering experiences of the characters
Serious implications of being stuck in an enclosed space begins to feed through in the conversation. The relationship between the two characters quite quickly deteriorates with the realisation that one of them has to die in twelve hours. The modern and effective technique of using projections on large screens helps to shed light on the previous life-altering experiences of the characters. This partially explains Eli’s aggression and Maia’s anxiety and through these fragments of information, as an audience we sense escalating tension. It becomes increasingly clear that Maia is perhaps the most unnerving character because she has concealed the shocking truth that she has killed her own mother.
a brief moment of catharsis
This contrasts to the more visible outbursts of anger that Eli has, for example his abuse towards his ex-girlfriend. Eli’s flashbacks in turn build up a growing sense of guilt within him as he has time to dwell on what he did. This guilt climaxes in a dreamlike scene featuring a hallucination of Eli’s brother (played by Dylan Sutcliffe) in which Eli battles with himself over killing Maia. Thus, the ending allows the audience a brief moment of catharsis as Eli and Maia discover a mutual understanding and respect through their ongoing dialogue, reaching a plateau of energy as the conflict appears to be resolved.
raises questions about mental health in young adults while also tackling the difficult topic of suicide in a subtle way
There is comfort in the agreement not to turn on one another; however, this hope is quickly torn away as Maia reveals she has indeed chosen to end her own life which is all the more heart-wrenching because the two characters have only just achieved a point of mutual understanding and acquiescence. This dynamic switch between elation and despair is recurrent through the play.
We see that the need for one of the characters to die is a self-induced requirement created by Maia’s own twisted imagination, and allows her to escape the responsibility of her own life. The play raises questions about mental health in young adults while also tackling the difficult topic of suicide in a subtle way, effectively addressed by dynamically engaging acting and direction.
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