Tightrope Theatre production
Theatr Clwyd, Mold, then touring
October 19-20, 2023; 1 hr 50 mins
Ikaria is an intense, absorbing play centred on the relationship between two undergraduates, one a fresher intent on gaining the full experience of university life, the other – a time-worn, browbeaten third year repeating the year after failing to work and contracting glandular fever.
The title, appropriately, is not only a Greek island but comes from Icarus, who in mythology developed wax-bound wings and could fly - but flew too close to the sun, melting the wings and tipping him into the sea to drown. The parallels here are fairly obvious but cleverly drawn.
Writer Philippa Lawford has captured the different personalities beautifully, one optimistic, ambitious and playful, the other isolated and keen to get back on track in his final year, leaving destructive habits behind. The two actors, Andrea Gatchalian as Mia and James Wilbraham as Simon, do a great job, portraying their character realistically and passionately.
The two characters contrast well: one industrious, ambitious and clearly keen to get all that university life has to offer; the other with potential but lacking motivation and commitment. The single set is simple, adding to the intensity of the relationship and giving us a window into the claustrophobic, suffocating existence suffered by Simon.
Some difficult issues are explored. We see a mental breakdown on stage, and its attendant issues of self-harm and drug abuse. Simon is clearly intelligent and talented, but caught in a destructive spiral, having failed to live up to the expectations of his demanding father. Mia is nearly drawn into this lifestyle, but when Simon allows his problems to destroy their relationship, pulls herself away – even though she experiences substantial grief in doing so.
This is a timely exploration of these themes, as mental health issues are having a huge effect on our young people, especially young men.
The ending is ambiguous. Mia shows signs of being highly successful, but Simon? He is caught in this vortex of destruction and one is left asking, did he ride the storm and come out the other side, or did he succumb to his personal demons? This is powerful, thoughtful theatre.
Tickets and information here