In the first 10 minutes, I became terribly worried that I would be unable to write a review. I knew Replay was the product of an intelligent, albeit wacky, mind, but it felt incomprehensible. Therein lies its fault and wonder. In the shortest and simplest terms, Replay is about a peculiar relationship between Freya, a piano teacher and her teenage pupil James. But too few parts were simple. Throughout, I was peeling off layers of complexity, sometimes delighted with my discoveries, but never given enough time to keep up, always feeling left behind in a play which is incredibly ambitious in its aspirations, with language (it certainly demonstrates the power, malleability, and beauty of language), theatrical techniques and the number of messages it aims to deliver. It was too dense. Or tried to do too much.
But you won’t be disappointed. Wilson promises a quarry of emotional minerals that make up the human condition: guilt, depression, anxiety, indifference, shame, pride, empathy, are all there; and they glisten, quite brightly, throughout the play. Wilson is an expert of subtlety, which, if leaning closer enough to observe, impresses a strong feeling of admiration. You know you’re staring in the face of creativity. And rarely have I experienced encounters so direct. The actors couldn’t have done more. Mary Clapp (Freya) never stops. She’s with you the whole performance, pulling you in with confessional modes and convincing episodes of acute reflection. This is all held tightly together with her noticeable talent for posture and expression. The chorus manages to keep up: Benedict Morrison and Poppy Clifford show little trouble in slipping into a variety of roles. Morrison stands out as a master of enunciation. Soraya Liu does a good job at being wooden.
For a play that touches upon the difficulty of communication, ambiguity of poetry, and importance of language, the irony couldn’t have been stronger. At points, punch lines are delivered with little effect, not owing to the actors, but because the play leaves no room for alteration. To speculate that James Joyce produced it on crack would be a sensible guess. Wilson, its artist (and he is nothing short of it here), would do well to take a step back, and see if it is still legible from afar.