John Morton’s latest theatrical offering comes in the form of Taboo, a two-hander play that focuses on the first date of Lily (Lisa Fox) and Tom (Morton). Taboo began its life in 2014 as part of Collaborations as a one woman show and since then has been developed and extended to a full length play.
The action begins with Lily preparing for her first date with Tom and takes place in the living room of Lily’s house in a midlands town. Lily makes sure that everything is just so and from the beginning it is clear that she lives by her own particular rules. The dated but meticulous room, clearly of her parents’ taste in décor, is her world and here she reigns with little interaction from the outside world. When Tom arrives her pre-planned evening is slightly scuppered by things not falling precisely into place and, as the first date progresses, a litany of events and revelations bring about an evening that is far from perfect.
Played out in real time over the three course meal of Lily and Tom’s first date (no mean feat in live performance) Taboo is generally well paced and despite its slightly surreal storyline is oddly believable. The characters are well defined and likeable créatúrs despite their obvious and inherent flaws. While the starter goes down a treat, the main course unfortunately gets stuck a little, with some unnecessary dialogue between the pair that slows down the action. This does help to expand on the overall theme but tends to sit heavy on the audience, as a definite change in the atmosphere is palpable. Thankfully, the dessert acts as a perfect remedy, with the rhubarb tart bringing a sweet and sour ending to a wonderfully twisted tale.
Overall production values feel very high, with a realistic set by Helen McGinty being an integral part of the story. Sound (Sean Dennehy) makes good use of retro radio hits to heighten the mood and humour throughout, while also indicating subtle developments in the story in tandem with lighting (Maggie Donovan). What truly stands out are Fox and Morton, who are equally matched in skill and acting ability, and work incredibly well together to give superb performances under the direction of Sarah Baxter
From the outset Taboo provides humour through its quality writing and nuanced characters. All of the humour in Taboo is tinged not only with darkness but with an underlying tragedy, yet manages to be tender and undeniably sweet in places. The delicate balance between comedy and tragedy is tipped on occasion, with the darkness winning out at times and at others giving way to slapstick relief. On that note, Taboo remains true to its title in both content and dialogue; this is definitely a show for grownups only and doesn’t aim to be politically correct. On the whole, that’s the point. Taboo is about being “your own kind of normal” and that means not always fitting in and sometimes going against the grain.
Written by John Morton
Directed by Sarah Baxter
Produced by Lisa Fox and Stephen Tadgh
Set Design by Helen McGinty
Sound Design by Sean Dennehy
Costume Design by Triona Humphries
Lighting Design by Maggie Donovan
Stage Managed by Sinead Heavin