Molly Taylor is such a gentle, charismatic storyteller that it takes a while to realise the tale she’s sharing with you is achingly sad as well as lovely. By then, you’re well under her spell and it might be too late to stop a sneaky tear running down your cheek.
Last year, the London-based writer and performer captivated Adelaide Fringe theatre audiences with Love Letters to the Public Transport System, a one-woman play which celebrated unexpected encounters on public transport.
Her new work, Holden Street Theatres Edinburgh Fringe Award 2018 winner Extinguished Things, is told from the home of a married couple, in a living room with cream carpet, lace curtains, vintage lamps, old records and a table where Taylor occasionally tops up a cup of tea as she weaves together the story of their life based in the things they’ve left behind.
“My neighbours leave their flat one morning but don’t return. Al and Evie, married 40 years, no kids. I have their spare keys. I cannot resist.”
It sounds like a mystery. In fact, it explores the mystery inherent in a long-term relationship, celebrating love, mourning loss and revelling in the ephemera of life in between.
Our 30-something narrator has actually returned home to live with her parents, so she grew up down the street from Alton and Evie.
Through her memories and items in the couple’s home, we slowly get to know them: Alton, for example, likes herbal tea, double bagged; Evie is irritated by a house guest leaving food scraps in the sink; there’s a vinyl record on the wall, old letters, a copy of The Joy of Sex on a bookshelf.
Taylor’s writing is poetic and as poignant as her performance, taking us deeper and deeper into Alton and Evie’s private world, exposing both grief and joy. The emotional pain and tenderness encapsulated in one scene centred on a cooling bath is heart-wrenching; another revealing vignette is set against the backdrop of Britain’s 1981 race riots.
Extinguished Things also offers glimpses of the storyteller’s own life – a relationship breakdown, the simplicity of a single bed, a “ticking biological clock”.
An hour with Molly Taylor flies by quickly and it takes a while to fully process the impact of her story. If you’re like me, you may find Alton and Evie popping into your thoughts long after the show has finished.
Extinguished Things encourages us to embrace the minutiae and messiness of love and life – and to appreciate the fragility of both. It is told through tangible things left behind, yet reminds us that what is truly precious is the intangible of the here and now.
Extinguished Things is at Holden Street Theatres until March 3.