Two deaths. Two former best mates. A roadtrip. The set-up for The Drive is straightforward, but what actually happens on stage is anything but. This journey is a messy, tech-heavy, shambling exploration of female friendship, grief and memory.
It's the work of writers, directors, and performers Tamsin Fessey and Lynne Forbes, also known as Angel Exit Theatre. They spark off each other convincingly as they play two university friends who are reluctantly thrown back together. Their friend has died of breast cancer, and in her final moments, she crafted a roadtrip to her hometown of Oslo for them. It’s a contrived set-up that makes the pair confront other losses, as well as missing phones, confusing maps and road kill.
The production is ambitious, with Complicite-style projections bringing their present-day surroundings and blurry university memories onto the car’s windscreen. But the visuals never quite come together – the car set is distractingly makeshift, and there’s a weirdness to a production that elaborately projects naturalistic scenes out of the car’s windows, but makes the actors use an imaginary steering wheel.
There are loosely choreographed physical theatre interludes, too, which attempt to capture the emotional weight of this unlikely pilgrimage. But this mish-mash of theatrical tropes can't work without a strong overarching narrative to keep them in place. This play never really moves beyond its original set-up. Instead, it disintegrates in a pile-up of philosophical musings and meta-theatrical references, its journey cut short.