Ten Times Two
Arts Centre Washington
Fri 28th July
Written by Davis Belke
Presented by Washington Theatre Group
Produced by Angela Marshall
Directed by Danny Stones
This play has a strange but interesting premise; an immortal being - Ephraim (John Seymour) - lives only to wreak havoc in the human world, manipulating mankind into wars and conflicts. Ephraim has unexpectedly, and against the plan of the immortals, fallen in love.
He is observed (and manipulated himself in turn) by the other immortals. It is never made clear who or what these beings are, nor what their purpose is. All we know of them is what we can glean from The Host (Sarah Seymour), who orchestrates the events throughout the play. When asked at one point if he is a guardian angel, The Host replies "the very opposite". Perhaps these creatures are the Devil's angels? It is never made clear, only that they are omnipotent, and omnipresent, and malign.
The Host is curious as to how and why this Barmaid, Constance (Catriona Brannigan-Uren) should have affected Ephraim. He denies any attachment either on his side or hers, and so as 'an experiment' they enter into a wager: Ephraim must elicit a genuine declaration of love from Constance when he returns in the spring.
The Host is a dispassionate observer who reports back to unseen "bosses". He introduces Ephraim and sets the seen, apparently addressing the audience though it eventually becomes clear that it is not us, but the other immortal beings that he is conversing with. The audience hear only The Hosts comments, we do not hear their questions or comments in response to The Host. It is clear that there is some kind of plan in process, but none but these unseen immortals know what this is. The Host has some knowledge, but not all, he merely follows instruction. Ephraim himself is clearly unaware that he has been manipulated for centuries, perhaps he was once human, but over the many decades of his life the humanity has been stripped from him until he is reduced to the cold hearted creature who's only pleasure is in the creation of chaos and destruction.
The play pans spans six centuries, and has just three cast members. Ironically Constance is reborn each Century as a different person while the immortal Host and Ephraim remain constant throughout. Catriona Brannigan-Uran metamorphoses into each new character like a chameleon changing colour, from bubbly barmaid to pious nun to flirtatious flapper. She is a stark contrast to the androgynous, dispassionate Host played by Sarah Seymour. Casting a female in the role of The Host certainly adds something to this sinistrous character. She is a disturbing, but not entirely unsympathetic character. John Seymour comes into his own in the final scenes where his humanity has overtaken him. He is much more convincing as the immortal Being racked by human emotions than the cold-hearted Ephraim of the first scenes.
This is a play about fate, predestination, the nature of humanity, and deity, good and evil, and the potential to change one's nature, and one's destiny. This is illustrated by the symbolic chess set which sits on the table throughout the play. Occasionally The Host moves a piece, and at one point the table is knocked and several pieces are scattered. Billed as a romantic comedy, there is humour in it, but it is mostly overshadowed by the sinister nature of the otherworldly immortals and the sense that we are not masters of our own destiny. It is a strange mix of the historical and modern and it has an almost science fiction feel to it.
Ten Times Two is an interesting, thought-provoking and at times bemusing play (I am not convinced by the romantic comedy tag). This was my first time at a Washington Theatre Group production, I am impressed by the standard of acting, the slick sound and lighting and the friendly welcome. I will be back to see more by them.