by Sam Hardaker
Subtitled a ‘time bending rom-com’, the student-run Sisyphus House touched a nostalgic and sentimental nerve. Written by Abbie Nott and Megan Bruton, the new play had a unique and fresh voice, both loving and honest, truthful and fantastical, and Sisyphus House was able to transform a rather grey Thursday and my rather grey outlook, with essay deadlines looming, into a hopeful one.
The dual timeline, with jumps between 1590 and the present day, made for thoughtful comparisons, the past feeling closer than ever. The two Tudor characters, Arthur (Josh Gray) and Francis (Alex Bridges), opened the doors to a queer history, a loving one, a hidden one that deserves a voice.
For a setting that felt at once exciting and familiar, a dilapidated Tudor mansion that I’m sure many can imagine thanks to the various National Trust sites the description evokes, the story was comforting and enthralling. The almost-romance between a soon to be history graduate (Robin, played by Kate Harkness) and a young council worker tasked with the closing and selling of the old house (Ben, played by Geena Morris) was both relatable and lovingly awkward.
The brief featurettes from Emmeline (Phoebe Winter) were the most entertaining, enchanting and hilarious moments. The rest of the ensemble (Carolina Cortés Vilaplana and Antonia Anstatt) equally succeeded in believably constructing both the past and present, which made for an incredibly enjoyable evening.
Despite some audio issues, the performance was enthralling and engaging, and the actors especially witty and instinctive, even when things went wrong.
Sisyphus House ran from Tuesday 2 May to Saturday 6 May at the Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford.