A UK Review In [Exactly] 250 Words: "The Gulf" at London's Tristan Bates Theatre

Harriet Wilson

  • United Kingdom Critic

The Gulf, by Audrey Cefaly, is a well-written and deftly acted piece about the strained relationship between two women. The play is suitably intimate, and the characters very believable, but overall the piece lacks energy and feels underwhelming.

 Louisa Lytton and Anna Acton in The Gulf at Tristan Bates Theatre. Photo: Rachael Cummings

Louisa Lytton and Anna Acton in The Gulf at Tristan Bates Theatre. Photo: Rachael Cummings

The Gulf consists of two women, stranded on a boat, talking; not much happens other than this discussion (… and a little fishing). This structure helps to build a space where the sinews of a very convincing relationship can be spread out and examined; with nothing to hide behind, the relationship between Kendra (Louisa Lytton) and Betty (Anna Acton) is stripped completely back.

But the flip side of this structural choice is that we are left watching nothing but two women talking, for ninety-minutes. Whilst it is certainly interesting to observe this intense dissection of a relationship, it feels dry at times. Perhaps, with performing arts, this sort of unembellished style works better when complemented by other more energetic elements.

The structure of The Gulf lies at the very fundament of the play. I am sure that many people will enjoy the simplicity and openness that it allows but, equally, many may find it underwhelming.

Those who are able to engage with the unusual style of The Gulf will undoubtedly enjoy the finesse of its script, the believability of its characters, and the ways in which Lytton and Acton manage to draw out two very subtle, contrasting personalities.

The Gulf is playing at London's Tristan Bates Theatre until the 5th May 2018.