In order to class as a functioning human, Libby has to accept technological aid. Amy Bethan Evans' Libby's Eyes is a wry commentary of the consequence:

A society of functioning and non-functioning humans, where the latter is classed as property and the former required to work to prove their ability. Amy Bethan Evans sets Libby’s Eyes in a diametric world, one where the disabled are still expected to play the same game as everyone else.

But surely the system isn’t that cruel?

Of course not – in the case of Libby (Georgie Morrell), who is registered blind, they provide a handy device that sees for her. Libby’s Eyes (Ariane Gray), a cleverly scripted Discman as described by primary Audio Describer Louise Kempton, is there to illuminate the world and allow Libby to ‘function’ on her own. The stage is set for a cutting production that shines focus on the access requirements for disabled individuals, as well as a social commentary as to our current lack of such provisions.

In the script, the narrative carefully crafted by Evans, that is what we get. The inability to dispassionately observe is highlighted both in the eyes (Gray) and the audio (Kempton) with wry wit, as is the depiction of a family dynamic strained by one disabled parent and one carer. Evans writes with understanding of her world, both its accuracy and emotional impetus, weaving in gags (primarily from Kempton) that in their explanation accentuate the impact rather than detracting from it. Evans strikes a balance between cheery amusement and contemplative poignancy.

But while Libby’s Eyes has an energy on the page, it too often falls short on the stage. Director Spencer Charles Noll fails to add depth and complexity to this world, whether that be in its design or its pace. Arguments lack tension or crescendo; cues are slow, and lines are skipped. Whole scenes are stitched together without continuity and the true intent behind some of the subplots lacks clarity. Gray plays both the technology and its inventor but fails to convey the purpose behind the engineer’s scenes – they aren’t effectively woven into the fabric of this tale.

Much of Libby’s Eyes lacks tension too, a combination of lacking direction and some acting performances that, while competent, don’t connect on the levels that the script merits. As the protagonist, Morrell gives a grounded and real interpretation of the character, at her best when acting the dry comedian that harmoniously meshes with Evans’ writing. Similarly, father Ron (Adam Elms) connects with his character’s outbursts, the sense of injustice that he has been railing against for oh so long. But each actor more often presents their lines rather than performing them; the characters never seem to sit harmoniously with their creators.

The frustration with Libby’s Eyes is that there is clearly potential in the production. Its presentation needs a stronger hand to guide it, smooth out the rough edges and add intention to the delivery. The show is a strong piece of new writing to open the Breaking Out initiative at The Bunker, but will benefit from more rehearsal or development time.

 

 

★★★☆☆

Libby’s Eyes runs on Mondays and Thursdays until 7 July 2018, one of the Breaking Out plays as part of The Bunker Summer Season. For more information, please visit the venue website.