A couple brought together by activism are put to the test after the confession that they fall on opposing sides. But the resulting tension doesn't translate onto stage. Daniel Perks reviews:

When the partner you think you know – the husband you have a child with – turns out to be someone completely different, can you ever truly trust them again?

What about if this person reveals themselves to represent everything you rally against; the antithesis to your beliefs; the enemy?

Husband Loves Union Theatre

Shane Noone & Lia Burge

I Know My Husband Loves Me’, thinks Trish (Lia Burge). When now-husband Mott (Shane Noone) joined the same radical left-wing organisation as her, sparks inevitably flew. And after the approval of fellow activist and friend Harriet (Joyce Omotola), initially reticent Trish dove in headfirst.

Pete Talman’s show opens (and closes) with the reveal that Mott has been leading a double life, jumping straight to the crux of the narrative and developing through both backstory and the subsequent consequences. Niall Phillips uses blocking to demarcate each storyline – an elevated set raises the memories of the past, with the ground level presenting an inevitable crash down to earth. I Know My Husband Loves Me aims to establish tension, the dichotomy of choice between work and family. But the reality of the performance does not live up to expectation.

Husband Loves Union Theatre

Joyce Omotola & Lia Burge

As the central couple, Burge and Noone take too long to establish a rapport. The initial disconnect should complement the implosion of Trish’s reality, but instead it comes across as unintentionally awkward. And the time taken for the two leads to settle into their roles is only exacerbated by the ease with which the other cast members connect to their respective characters. Omotola’s Harriet is warming and personable; Sianad Gregory’s Blair treads a precise line between inflammatory and affable.

I Know My Husband Loves Me finds its rhythm by the midpoint. Intrigue slowly builds when Blair starts manipulating the already fractured marriage with knowledge of the couple’s murky past. By introducing this unpredictable individual into the equation, Talman’s script starts to generate the atmosphere it has been aiming for. But even then, any carefully constructed tension dissipates too quickly because of uneven dialogue and mistimed pauses. End-of-scene transitions begin two beats too late; the show’s pace is constantly off-kilter, and the final climax feels confusingly unfinished rather than a tantalising cliff-hanger.

Husband Loves Union Theatre

Lia Burge & Sianad Gregory

This production comes across as a work in progress, one that would benefit from the fresh perspective of a dramaturg. I Know My Husband Loves Me wants to take a chance and jump in feet first, but it’s currently too uneven a show to effectively put its point across. It’s hard to confidently pose deep questions from rocky foundations.

★★☆☆☆

I Know My Husband Love Me plays at the Union Theatre until 22 June 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the venue website.