In one way, Glenn Waldron’s The Here and This and Now brought by Theatre Royal Plymouth provided a profound, thought-provoking description of what we, collectively, have gotten ourselves into – it approached many contemporary and universal issues that surround the cold and somehow inhuman world of pharmaceutical representatives with incisiveness. Such a background provided a white wall for sketches of four, immeasurably different personas attempting to influence, understand and learn from each other. We meet them briefly, but we can still relate to them – Waldron makes clear that he sees no differentiation between merit and vice.
All four characters had their own way of living “in the moment” but only one seemed entirely comfortable with the direction his life took (ironic given the ending of the piece). Simon Darwin played the slimy Niall to perfection, a man seemingly reconceiled with who he was and the money-driven world he inhabited, playing people and profits with ease and gaining ‘the best life’ as a result. However, what might have at first seemed a caricature villain darkened in the second, dystopian part, when his manipulation and playing of the pharmaceutical game came full circle.
Glenn Waldron has sensed the deep need of the public to become aware of the effortless pharmaceutical manipulation that we are the victims of. The discrepancy between the sacred and profane was a building block of the whole experience. Where does the success lie? Is manipulation by common association (daily joys and struggles, your child’s illness) a sign of cold-heartedness? Is that one person who, unable to be insincere, condemned to be lost? Helen, magnificently played by Becci Gemmell, was a tragic example of one who, because of her candidness and sensitivity, found herself unadaptable to the rigid and gradually more inhuman world that developed towards the end of the piece. Pushed to the limits to find mythical ‘unicorn pills’ to save someone she loves, Gemmell is wonderful as a character just skirting the edges of insanity, providing a wonderful contrast to Darwin’s suddenly vulnerable Niall. These were both ably supported by glorious turns from Andy Rush (Robbie) and Tala Gouveia (Gemma), providing well-needed balance in a piece otherwise characterized by its extremes.
The concepts that Waldron used were familiar to all but it was the overwhelming insincerity and a collective, unspoken agreement to tolerate what becomes a rather ridiculous state of affairs that leaves one pondering after having left the theatre. The plot itself was actually of secondary importance; The Here and This and Now is primarily a great conversation of thoughts and concepts. Although darkly humorous, it soon felt wrong to laugh when one realised that “it is funny because it is true” and that, regrettably, the audience are indeed complicit in this. A child standing on the desolate, post-apocalyptic stage at the end seemed like a whiff of optimism – Bill Paterson narrating the last line implied otherwise. Even if Niall, the pharmaceutical boss, didn’t survive, his profit-driven, exploitative type, will always be among us.