"intense bereavement and dating drama"
by Frank Hill for remotegoat on 17/06/17

Married. But Lonely.

Most of us have lost someone we were close to, and bereavement affects people in many ways. Coping is a process that can take us through many emotions - denial, anger, depression and a huge sense of loss.

In Chris Leicester’s play ‘Lonely. But Married’ (a ‘Too Write Productions’ presentation at ‘53two’ in Manchester), Jerry’s wife has died and he struggles to cope. Then, he is mysteriously contacted by two internet dating sites. But Jerry works for a consumer evaluating IT company and knows perfectly well how people are tracked and assessed like commodities by way of their phones, internet use and shopping habits. ‘We know who you are,’ he ominously states in one of the plays more effective monologues, and is amused when he sees people in the streets leafleting. He regards them as living in the stone age.

But although understanding the ‘Big Brother’ techniques these websites used to contact him, Jerry decides to take up their option and proceeds to meet a number of women. He seems to do this reluctantly and is immediately negative and aggressive to each person he sees. He still feels angry about the sudden death of Suzy, and is intolerant and abusive to the vulnerable, needy women he meets. Particularly in his encounter with an ageing hippy, in what I felt was the plays least effective sequence (in a cavernous venue like this, actors need to whisper loudly if they want to be heard). I didn’t like Jerry. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to do. But these women weren’t responsible for his wife’s death, he wasn’t forced to meet up with them. My sympathy was with them, not him.

His two main encounters, with Veronica and Clare, were more interesting. They were both well developed characters and their personal stories of abuse and exploitation were gripping. Catia Soeiro and Miranda Benjamin brought these two women effectively to life.

Phil Gwilliam gives a powerful performance as Jerry - life on hold, three nights a week in the pub, Burger King for meals and returning to the Karaoke nights and George Michael songs he shared with Suzy in an attempt to revisit their life together. He also has two children to look after, though I wasn’t sure where they fitted into his one-bedroom-flat lifestyle.

All three characters seem needy and self-absorbed. When Jerry is threatened with another potential tragedy in his life, Veronica’s only response is, ‘What about me’. But as Clare points out, ‘You only go down the road once - and only one way’. So Jerry has to decide if he wishes to continue in his morose, empty, lonely existence, or wants to build a new life for himself. And would Suzy approve?

‘Married. But Lonely’ (both written and directed by Chris Leicester) is an interesting play looking at how people cope with disaster in their lives. Jerry’s soliloquies are often moving in their self-reflection and I eventually warmed to him a little. Certainly a play worth checking out.

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