Back to Oblivion at the New Theatre, Nottingham

Matthew Miller’s Back to Oblivion is a highly domestic piece of theatre which charmingly epitomised the ethos of low budget, quality studio theatre. Set entirely in the living room of a young unmarried couple, Back to Oblivion explores the renewed relationship between two old schoolmates, Andy (Omid Faramazi) and Gary (Gary Berezin) who, after roughly a year apart following a dispute, have decided to settle their differences now that Gary and his partner of fifteen months have separated. Meanwhile, Andy claims to have “never been happier” since returning to his girlfriend Debbie (Amelia Gann), though as the drama unfolds, Andy’s joblessness and strong reluctance to prise himself from the comfort of his sofa (with the exception of popping to the kitchen for a can of larger) begin to suggest weaknesses and insecurities he has striven to conceal…

Back to Oblivion was performed in one of the New Theatre’s smaller studio spaces, which was apt since the entire production was staged in a living room; presenting the piece in a more compact environment maximised the intimacy of action, plus the actors proximity to the audience meant that our attention was theirs for the entire performance of roughly an hour. The set, designed and built collaboratively by Miller, director Lilly Dawson, producer Ginny Lee and designer Tom Selves, had all the charisma and allure of a family home – until you spot the coffee table littered with larger cans, pizza boxes and tabbacco packets. Its dishevelled and squalid focal point offered a brutal contrast to the its homely features such as the ornament depicting the word “love” and the sofa in the centre – it suggested a kind if discordance that we see bled into the characters’ relationships and personalities, an indication of things not quite being what they seem.

The audience is welcomed in the moments preceding the opening lines of the piece by Faramazi, already in character, slumped down on the sofa watching TV, a number of gormless expressions at his disposal and a hand down his joggers with Amy Winehouse’s I’m No Good on as background. The resounding message is: Andy is your typical ne’er do well. Gary’s arrival onstage totally brings Andy to life; all of a sudden he’s animated, desperate to interact and monopolising the conversation as well as the movement and gesture. It becomes very clear that in the pair’s school relationship Andy was the outspoken, popular and manipulative party, while Gary was perhaps more the adoring fan who just felt lucky to be friends with the big shot.

Of all the three performances, for me, Faramazi’s was perhaps the strongest in the projection of his voice, his captivating and natural stage presence and truly authentic way moving around in his performance space. That is not to say that the other two actors didn’t show exceptional class and ability; first time actor Gary Berezin really grew into his role as the play went on and his characterisation was absolutely spot on as years of frustration slowly bubbled to the surface. I felt I didn’t get to see enough of Amelia Gann’s Debbie since her time on stage was relatively short, yet she portrayed a multifaceted character most effectively in the time she was given meaning her’s was the character I was able to empathise with most easily, and I was set ill at ease by how convincingly powerless she was to Andy’s manipulations.

All in all, a fascinating, resonating and captivating production which was just the right length to tell a highly relatable story and to sustain the audience’s interest throughout. It’s certainly one I won’t be forgetting in a hurry for its effortless everyday comedy and haunting final moments…


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