REVIEW: Exes (Basement Theatre)

Review by Tim George

[A Thin Line Between Love and Hate… and laughter?]

A decade ago, Eli Matthewson and Brynley Stent were boyfriend and girlfriend. In the present day, they look back on how they got to together, and how they went their separate ways. Taking in improv games, role-play and a shattering of the space-time continuum, Exes is by a turns funny, sad and – frankly – terrifying examination of their relationship.

Created by and starring the very same Eli Matthewson and Brynley Stent, the show carries the tension of being caught in the middle of an argument you are not a part of: like a significant other talking to their parents in the other room, or a long-running feud boiling over at family Christmas, or in the middle of a screening of Rambo in 2008.

It is a tribute to the performers’ obvious friendship and strong grasp of the concept, especially in their willingness to expose such a deeply personal and complicated part of themselves, that Exes emerges as the perfect balance between silly farce and honest dialogue.

Largely based around the pair and a powerpoint presentation, Exes moves like a bullet as the performers go through every step of their unromance, from awkward flirtation through awkward coupledom. The pair are incredibly candid about their younger selves, and the more sensitive aspects of their relationship, including Matthewson’s coming out.

There is no ‘bad’/‘good’ dichotomy imposed on this relationship, and part of the joy of the show is how it satirises that easy breakdown. Their Rashomon-like recollections of their break-up is one of the highlights of the show, and part of what makes it great is that the literal truth is never clarified. The point is not that their accounts do not match up, but each version of the story reflects the way they felt about the situation, and how they want the other person to understand their own point of view.

Directed by Hamish Parkinson (with input from Leon Wadham), Exes is like a chocolate tofu biscuit – from the outside it may look lumpy and strange, but it is considerably more substantial than first impressions may suggest

EXES plays at Basement Theatre until 8 March. 

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