Would you watch the same day played out again and again? Lizzie and Joy are best friends, but as Joy is crashing at Lizzie’s flat, they are getting on each other’s nerves. Joy is trying to get bored businessmen interested in her free sanitary pads campaign, while Lizzie’s music classroom is about to be turned into a shiny new computer lab. The two meet up later to attend their friend’s 30th birthday party, taking out the frustrations of their day on their friend and each other.
This same day is played out multiple times during this show with tweaks in their dialogue, interactions, and therefore outcome. In one version, the two hide their respective bad days from each other, only to take it out on strangers at the party later. In another, Joy is brutal to Lizzie, saying “You look shit. No, seriously you do.” Even Joy’s taxi ride to the party is played out in different ways – she chats about her bad day, or plugs into her earphones to avoid any conversation at all.
It is difficult to understand the point of the show from the outset. The different versions of the same day don’t follow any particular progression, and none result in better outcomes than any other. “Tacenda is an archaic term referring to things better left unsaid,” reads the show’s description. “This is theatre about why we sugarcoat our words…Tacenda will force us to relive our mistakes until we have the nerve to be straight with each other.” If that was the point, it didn’t come across as such. None of the scenarios had the characters being more honest than others, only differing degrees of nastiness to each other.
This was precisely what I thought turned out to be the message of the play in the end. That despite tweaking this and that choice of words, leading to a shift in interactions, and therefore outcome of the party and their days, none turns out ‘better’ than another. Whether Joy and Lizzie were honest with each other did not change the fact that someone would always mess up in the party after – just in different ways. Whether Joy placidly accepted the manager’s dismissal of her campaign, or swore continuously at him, or played the compassion card of corporate social responsibility, her campaign was not accepted. What changed was how she felt about it after.
In the same vein, whatever Lizzie said, her music room was going to be taken away from her at school. But it was in the situation where she stood up to the head teacher that made her feel better about it after. In a way, there was an element of fate in how the scenarios were presented – we cannot change how things turn out, but we can change how we approach them. It was also interesting to see how minor changes in what characters say to each other transform the atmosphere of a certain situation. The setting of contemporary London and very millennial characters also made it feel relevant to our mundane daily lives.
In all honesty, it got rather tedious by the fourth scenario, and I was thinking, do I really have to watch this again? But that feeling grew on me at the end, as it emphasised the Sisyphean feel of getting through our millennial struggles. Too close for comfort? Maybe.