Written by Alison Carr
Directed by Caitlin Skinner
49.7% (give or take) of the world gone in an instant.
But this vanishing act is by no biblical rapture or comic-book endgame shenanigans: this future Alison Carr’s Until It’s Gone manifests is one without explanation. The first entry into the 2023 A Play, A Pie, And a Pint makes no narrative choices as to the why or how of the entire world’s population of women vanishing, instead, this grimly comic two-hander focuses not on the women who are no longer here, but on two men: and for once, it’s entirely practical and appropriate to do so.
Meeting at a shabby and cracked Glasgow bench are two such chaps: a 25-year-old (Sean Connor) who has never truly interacted with a woman, his mother vanishing shortly after his birth, and a discontented man of around 60 (Billy Mack), who lost his wife, his mother, and sister in the ‘happening’. They’re not entirely here by choice mind, the government making the decision to introduce a compulsory app which uses algorithms to pair men. The algorithm, world-beating (where have we heard that before) and faultless, delicately matches men with someone they may be able to form a connection with to combat loneliness, isolation, and other urges.
There are obvious questions and thoughts which would arise first in audiences. But steadily, as the world begins to accept this paradigm shift, the more concerning and innate concerns begin to make way for the mistakes and grievances we have perpetuated for centuries. Unaware of what we had until it was gone.
Marvellous to see the return of a park-bench scenario – the framework of the story never leaves this area, though Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott’s minimal set of a broken-up wall with graffiti and posters of lost women adds additional dimensions. There’s an indisputable touch on the fraught debates of gender and sex, though never outrightly stated, with comedy being played to the max to lull audiences into the surroundings before leaning heavier on additional elements. And, if anything, Carr’s comedic script moves swifter through the more noticeable generational divide, which seems to be widening with each day.
The aggression and pain carried in Connor’s voice to the generation who saw or chose to ignore, the damage which was caused for the sake of their own comfort oppugned by the mindset of those who were there at the time, who accept they may have failed but won’t be lectured by those who never experienced it first-hand. Mack and Connor are the glue of this production, and the limited shortcomings of initial pacing are designed to convey time, but instead, cause false starts in momentum.
Conceptually, though difficult to truly comprehend, Until It’s Gone initially finds a clear-cut simplicity in its premise: a world in which women suddenly vanish. And though this is a world none of us can truly unravel, its proposition comes with an immediate hook. But what Caitlin Skinner’s direction benefits from in offering even a glimpse of the truth of what a world would look like, is found within two performers who grasp the nuances and depths to which Carr’s writing descends. Sean Connor’s more eager, even naïve, twenty-five-year-old who is open to the idea from the offset, though hides a touch more behind his banana munching charm. While Mack’s more dour, disappointed man aligns closer to what audiences would expect in this crumbling society.
The conversation deepens beyond the superficial as time moves forward for the pair, transitioning from the initial thoughts of the physical to much more emotional conversations of loved ones, of the loss of half the world’s population – and the utter lack of appreciation of what we once shared. And that’s where the sting of Until It’s Gone presents itself. And it’s one that audiences suspect will raise its head sooner or later. Mack delivers a harrowing and poignant delivery of not the future issues we may face, but of the contemporary under-valuing of women, the lackadaisical attitudes in standing up for a fairer society, the dangers of the ‘I’m not the problem’ and the dreaded ‘not all men’ argument.
Presented in association with Stellar Quines, Carr’s production serves up a heaping helping of droll comedy to open this season’s A Play, A Pie, And A Pint which slots itself neatly into the fifty-minute timeslot. Even with the extremeness of the subject matter, Until It’s Gone manages to subdue itself, remaining understated (even with Mack and Connor’s humour) and positing just enough insight within diluting the enjoyment. A solid start to the season, promising tight comedy, captivating new-writing, and some bloomin’ great performances.
A Solid Start
Until It’s Gone runs at Traverse Theatre until March 4th. Tuesday– Saturday at 13.00pm.
Tickets begin from £17.50 (with Pie & Pint) and £12.00 for Play only. Returns only for select dates, but information may be obtained here.