With three hours already under my belt, I sit down for my second three hour viewing of the day a little sceptical but ready to be convinced. Part 2 of The Divide was sure to be where it all kicked off, and all that time spent on setting the scene in Part 1 would be worth it. This was not the case.
Ayckbourn goes full YA in the second installment of his epic, and the dialogue suffers because of it. As a love triangle emerges between Soween, her friend Giella and Elihu, sickeningly sentimental proclamations of love take over, and the forceful sincerity quickly becomes contrived. Jake Davies and Weruche Opia as Elihu and Giella are unconvincing as lovers and an indulgently dragged out scene in which their secret love letters to each other are read aloud is groan-inducing.
Erin Doherty does her best with surprisingly poor material but all the ‘dear brothers’ and ‘sweet Giellas’ in her monologues are embarrassingly out of keeping with her character and overly formal for the supposed writings of a teenager in her diary. The climatic party thrown to celebrate Elihu and Giella’s forbidden marriage ends in obvious trouble, but the narrative has grown so predictable by this point that nobody watching is even upset by the result.
Opia improves in a scene where she is tried by the local council and sentenced to the death penalty and there are some touching moments with Elihu and Soween’s orthodox mother, played by Thusitha Jayasundera. However, a miraculous twist involving Elihu leaves the audience nonplussed, as does the final tragedy. By this point, it’s a struggle to feel emotionally invested.
Fast forward back to the post-Divide world we began Part 1 with, and men and women are no longer segregated. This ending is the final insult; after committing half of my daylight hours to this play, the cheap, lazy and somewhat offensive ending is just too much. I feel sorry for myself, but mostly I feel sorry for Erin Doherty – she deserved a better finale.
Read our review of The Divide Part 1
Words: Chiara Margiotta
The Divide Part 2, Kings Theatre, Aug 9-20 (10, 14), times vary