Taylor’s knack for direct address, and observant writing, makes Extinguished Things compelling – but the second half of the text meanders and loses momentum.
Molly Taylor’s self-penned Extinguished Things starts brilliantly. Whilst solo shows may be anything but unusual in Edinburgh, the award-winning writer-performer brings a unique energy to the monologue from the word go. Even in Summerhall’s cumbersome (if beautiful) Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Taylor seems entirely at home with both her words and audience. She has a captivating knack for direct address like few performers I’ve seen this year; everyone gets eyeballed, but in the gentlest manner possible. And her writing seems equally, satisfyingly, inclusive.
We relate, and laugh along, to numerous well-observed insights: the sinking feeling you get when someone you haven’t seen for years (but you were sort of fine with that) approaches from the horizon and painful small talk is inevitable. The millennial abasement of being forced to move back in with your parents. The ludicrous parental expectation that we’ll suddenly wake up one day having discovered our ‘calling’ and/or ‘purpose’.
We learn that, as a means of escape, Molly uses a neglected key to break into her 60-year old neighbour’s house whilst they’re aware. She imagines, and invents before our eyes, the entire relationship cycle of this interracial couple (Evie and Alton) and we hear about the Toxteth riots, secrets kept between the couple, reasons they apparently remained childless and more. It’s here where the monologue loses a bit of momentum – the more Taylor talks about the couple, rather than uses them as a way to review and frame her own (millennial) experiences, the more everything feels a little detached and two-dimensional.
It sounds awful to say I became less interested in the story the more it focused on the history of an interracial Liverpudlian couple from the 1970’s, but it doesn’t quite translate or reverberate in the way it’s told here. Neither character feels fully-formed,and maybe that’s the point – they are, of course, partly fictionised (at least as much as Taylor’s character has ‘filled in the blanks’ based on the fragments she has). But Taylor’s own persona seems so real and vivid by comparison, that I’d be more interested to hear more of her own story in this context.