Parallel Lines at the Arts Centre

Parallel Lines is just one of many pieces of work that has come out of production company Dirty Protest, who develop and promote new writers in Wales. This play in particular was written in 2012 by Katherine Chandler, has won two Welsh drama awards and is currently on a tour of Wales.

It centres around two pairs of characters; a teenage schoolgirl and her alcoholic mother and a teacher and his wife. The theme of social hierarchy is explored when an allegation is made against Simon – played convincingly by Gareth Pierce – and we are left watching the two sides of the story, having to decide which half we believe. As the name suggests, these pairs of characters never ‘meet’ until the end where ultimately we are given the truth.

The set was minimal; harsh light forming boxes of illumination, resembling a prison cell and jarring music to make us uncomfortable. The scenes overlapped slightly, reminding us that these pairs of characters – though never interacting with each other – were all involved in the same event.

Jan Anderson stands out as Melissa, Steph’s young and alcoholic mother who we learn to sympathise with due to her resignation of her social class and her knowledge that her daughter would never be believed, whether being honest or not. This is where Chandler’s writing shines; throughout the play we can feel for a different character at certain points and conversely severely dislike them the next. The conversational and naturalistic tone of the piece made it relateable and the contrasts in pace peaked interest as the play progressed.

Parallel Lines was extremely engaging, with effective direction from Catherine Paskell. It reached its purpose of creating suspense and a sufficient crescendo in the ‘problem’ these characters are faced with, however the writing sometimes veered out of the raw tone that was so successful by being too descriptive and prolonging the scenes.