The plan to re-paint a room after a break-up is no bad idea, and one that I’ve executed in fiction and real life. But asking the ‘ex’ in question to do the decorating is something I probably wouldn’t have considered… even less-so after seeing Drawn and Quartered. The play opens with Ana (Elise Arnold) arriving at her re-decorated flat with an incredulous expression that says, ‘what the f**k.’
After having taken in the mayhem, those are indeed her first words.
After four years of living together, following six months of separation, out of a perverse sense of charity she has asked Michael to repaint the apartment as he’s been out of work. But Michael is an artist, not a painter. Instead of daubing the peaceful tones of ‘Navajo Sunset Red’ that Ana provided, he has recreated scenes from the couple’s relationship, formed among the stains and stories already etched on the walls.
Only a blank square on the rear wall remains: left so that he can ‘paint’ Ana. After several exchanges, none of them seems able to explain this situation, except to say that Ana is not best pleased – understandably. When she finally gets it, she cries out, “You do not have permission to paint with my heart!” Quite.
This is one of many good lines that play with painting metaphors. The drama continues with an unpleasant peeling of the already battered and cracked surfaces of their past and present relationship. Neither of these two have quite let go, and the drama pushes and pulls breathlessly between various passions. At the high-tension points, Ana’s panic-induced asthma attacks give Michael reason to comfort her.
But it creates an intimacy that goes too far.
Throughout what is essentially a 50-minute quarrel, it feels like they are going to end up either f**king or fighting. Neither option seems like a good idea, with so much hurt and hate being splashed around, as well as a bottle of wine – literally.
Perhaps the only glossed over detail was what Ana did for a living. Although she seemed to be the stronger character (at least, more strongly acted, although the chemistry between them was pretty solid) her entire modus operandi was in the context of her toxic relationship with Michael.
Aside from the production (which is as simple and straightforward as it needs to be for a Fringe show) this is a play that strips off the veneer of a broken relationship and lays it bare. In the dissection process, the overall tone is bitterness, which makes the play a tough pill. The key question in any such relationship is whether they should stay together. Once Michael has literally painted Ana, the question remains: “What do we do now?”
Ana’s answer, “Just let it dry,” while troubling, is acceptably enigmatic.
You can see Drawn and Quartered in C Venues, C Cubed until August 17th at 18:40. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/