The title of Rose Lewenstein’s play is not vague in any way – it triggers a very obvious association with the image of an older woman, presumably in her forties, seducing a younger man into an illicit sexual relationship. Leila, (Charlotte Randle), is a superficially powerful woman leading the way for corporate sustainability in the wake of climate change. She becomes lovers with a young bartender in his twenties, John (Mike Noble), and pays to bring him along on her travels across the globe as she lectures corporate giants on the profitability of the “Green Agenda”. Their time is limited to hotel rooms that blur together as the play progresses, becoming indistinguishable from one another, as do the cities they hop between.
It becomes clear that John is essentially a very expensive piece of luggage that Leila is lugging from country to country, and, though he begins to fall for her, she seems emotionally impenetrable. He is just a sexual object to her, refusing the intimacy he desires. The chaos within their relationship is mirrored both in the chaos of the outside world and the physical chaos of the set, which is slowly demolished throughout the play.
The actors have an effortless dynamic, and their wide emotional range is clear from Randle’s depiction of a hypocritical Leila, jet-setting around the world as some sort of climate change warrior whilst trebling her salary and living a wasteful life of luxury, and Noble’s transition from a contented, albeit disillusioned, guy to an unhinged, overly reliant lover.
Though brilliantly acted and directed, what is most remarkable is Lewenstein’s choice of form: 80 short scenes in just 75 minutes, depicting frenzied non-linear snapshots of John and Leila’s affair, and how it comes to fall apart. The dialogue flicks back and forth in time to repeat previous sentiments and lines, and the effect is enhanced by the use of lighting and movement. My closing piece of advice would be not to be put off by the mediocre reviews this play is receiving (a surprise to me personally). It’s a visually stimulating watch, with interesting power play between the two characters. At its heart, this is a play about consumption, in all the different senses of the word. As writer Rose Lewenstein powerfully puts it in a podcast with Orange Tree Theatre: “They are consuming the world, we are consuming the world, they are consuming each other, and the play is consuming them”.