Funny and fast-paced, Timothy has all the potential to be a triumph – if only the women weren’t all two-dimensional archetypes, leaving the play feeling shallow and lacking in any sort of message.
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: please don’t write any more female characters. That was not a general request to the playwriting masses, but very much a directed request at David K. Barnes and Michael Milne, the two writers of Timothy. It should probably also be suffixed with ‘until you’ve actually gone out and met some women’. It’s funny because there are female actors in the play, so they’ve clearly encountered some and must be aware that their personalities exist beyond the lazy, overused stereotypes of the ‘weird one’, ‘bitchy one’ and the ‘crazed housewife’.
I am, perhaps, being a little unkind. But I was so desperately disappointed at being promised a play with a 3:1 ratio of female to male characters, yet being delivered female characters with all the personality of a potato, that my annoyance feels justified.
Timothy is predominantly based around the interactions of the three female characters, and set in the basement of the crazed housewife (also known as Annette). The drama unfurls fairly rapidly: Annette has asked her two friends round to tell them something important. The two friends spend some time speculating about what this could be and wondering where Anette is. There is this sort of classic tension when the weird girl meets the cool girl and they have to pretend to like each other because of a mutual best friend who somehow manages to straddle both social levels. The blocking is awkward, the humour bounces between cringey and sort-of funny. It’s also quite strange because they are in her basement and seem to be spending a lot of time wondering where she is. How they made it into her basement without having to go through her front door is never really revealed. Perhaps they dug a tunnel.
Annette soon enters and quickly reveals that she believes her husband, Timothy, is trying to kill her. There is never a real explanation given for this, although the hysteria – which quickly builds from her fairly nonsensical reasoning – is where most of the play’s humour builds. I must admit the humour and timing can be good. I do find myself laughing along with the rest of the audience, who seem to be enjoying it. But this humour is strangled by my indignance at the painfully lazy character writing.
In 45 minutes of play, we are revealed this about the female characters: Anette is strange and her husband, Timothy, is trying to kill her. Susan has a husband who likes art. Yvonne. Yvonne just is. Timothy, on the other hand, has a career and a promotion. He has ambition and purpose. Do any of these women work? Apparently not. Do we know anything about them apart from their relationship to the men of the play? Nope.
I give credit to the actors. Despite the very little they’re given, they do manage to create distinct characters and pull the humour out of the script. It’s frustrating because there is potential. The writing can be funny at times. The characterisation formed by the language can be good. It’s entertaining, I do admit that. But there are long sections where nothing is really said and the characters go round in circles. Perhaps, just an idea, we needed to know a little more about these women. Who are they? What are their lives like? Then maybe, when everything does reach its climax, we might just feel something.
I blink my way through the twist at the end of the play, feeling little about the fate of these women. I have not been given enough to care about these characters, nor what happens to them. Because of this, the whole point of the play feels lost on me. There’s so much potential not only to be funny but to actual say something. Comedy has such potential to not only make us laugh, but to also satirise, make light of the darkness in the world and, indeed, within us. The play lacks the depth not afforded to any of the female characters and this is where it misses the trick.
I am disappointed that the women I see do not reflect the brave, strong, interesting women that I know. I’m sitting next to my best friend, as I watch this play. She’d help me hide a body, but we’d also chat about a little more than just our boyfriends whilst we did it.