The Yellow Wagtail, Lion and Unicorn Theatre - Review

Directed by Eloise Lally, The Yellow Wagtail offers a intimate appraisal of relationships in one's twenties. Hermione Halpin – who wrote the play as well co-stars with Tom Dixon – is the driving force behind this personal project.

Henry (Dixon) stops by at the home of Lily (Halpin), much to her surprise. It's years since they last saw each other and through the tentative 'get to know you' questions, it becomes apparent that not only did they used to know each other very well once, Henry's exodus to university coincided with, if not precipitated, their growing apart.

The chemistry is still there between them, but what's brought on this sudden visit? Why now after all this time? And just when Lily's thinking maybe they could be a couple again, Henry has news of his own that makes this notion now just a fantasy. But all roads start and lead back to Lily and it is there the answers lie...

The play jumps back and forth between the couple's past and the present, teasing the audience with clues or misdirection about why they didn't stay a couple and the reason for Henry's return.

The growing apart in later life of those that have pursued higher education versus those that haven't is an interesting one, and one that I know from personal experience, does happen. Lily having to forego her plans for the future because of family commitments is not so unusual from the feminine experience, but it is in someone as young as her. If the shoe was on the other foot, it is unlikely that Henry would have done the same, but to be fair to his character, he is there in town visiting his mother again who is suffering from poor health.

As a nascent playwright, Halpin has plenty of potential and Lally, as ever, has been able to draw out the universal range of experiences from the writing.

As for the eponymous wagtail that is the subject of Lily's paintings, perhaps it's her personal symbol for Henry – the bright young ornithologist who 'migrated' and left her world a duller, less happier place. However the more hopeful interpretation is that the wagtail is Lily and what with it being the ultimate inspiration of the phoenix myth, Lily may leave behind the ashes of her old life and able to start afresh.

© Michael Davis 2016

The Yellow Wagtail ran at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre from 2nd-5th June 2016.


Author's review: