18 April 2019
Emma Rogerson is engaged by the ferocity of Yen
Pound of Flesh’s production of Anna Jordan’s Yen was described in the discussion hour as “confrontational”, and that’s definitely an apt word to use. With fight sequences that came claustrophobically close to the audience and an in the round setting that firmly set the us as spectators of the story and each other, it’s clear to see why. And it makes for an utterly compelling and captivating atmosphere.
The momentum of the play builds off of juxtapositions. Bobbie’s youthful energy and playfulness set against Hench’s caution, shyness, his inability to articulate. The tension between them and the benign fights that they share are really believable, and it’s really lovely to see the contrast between irritability and tension encapsulated by Hench’s physicality alongside Bobbie’s fluid, gullible presence. Similarly, Maggie’s carelessness and entitlement against Jennifer’s compassion and hesitancy make for a really interesting dynamic, not only as characters in their own right but in the place they occupy as the women in Hench and Bobbie’s lives.
All the actors do a really strong job at sustaining the energy throughout the piece (one of the longer plays at NSDF) and the conflicts ripple throughout the show, in the tensions and the relationships and the writing. Particularly impressive were the digital interludes between each of the scenes set to electronic music. They compiled various sources, from sexualised women to Jeremy Kyle to Disney films to demonstrate the passage of time between each of the scenes. A smart choice, which not only aided the function of the play but which also made for a really provocative, interesting contrast with the video games and porn that is used as media during the scene.
In the interest of wanting a future for this show and to improve it further, there was one aspect that stood out as a bit of an oversight. The majority of the set was really suitable and believable as the bedroom the brothers share, from the dirty mattress to the stacks of Playstation games. However, I couldn’t help but cringe a bit when the Mac was used by Bobbie and Hench. The apple icon is so synonymous and symbolic of a class and level of wealth that is just fundamentally inaccessible to the characters of Yen, which was a massive shame as it was clear that the actors and direction supported this very accurate and sensitive portrayal of a working class narrative. It’s a super easy thing to fix, but maybe this is indicative of a need with this kind of production to constantly research and constantly develop awareness of the issues that are being explored. It was touched on in the discussion hour really well by the cast and director, and the acknowledgement of the privilege that the team approached the topic with seemed really genuine and authentic. If the research and development carries on, the future of this production is solid.
Photo credit: Beatrice Debney