Written by: Hattie Salmon
Directed by: Madeline Kain
BATS Theatre, 30th Mar 2023
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Erika (Hattie Salmon) and Asa’s (Thomas Steinmann) love story starts as all the best ones do: with a one-night stand gone wrong. Beginning with a brief but passionate encounter that blossoms into a lifelong affair, CORE is about how all-consuming, passionate, and volatile your first love can be.
This 90-minute two-hander is peppered with potential and beautiful moments. The chemistry and connection between our two leads is both believable and engaging. While Steinmann has an easy, natural performance style, Salmon’s ‘Ricky’ is more heightened, poetic. The juxtaposition is interesting to watch and serves the script well, which is real and surreal in equal measure.
Centring on a bed, Sid Williams’ functional set design transports us into the couple’s bedroom, while Max DeRoy’s lighting design conveys the passing of time from night to day. It’s lovely to watch as you imagine sunrays slowly spreading across your bed during lazy Sunday mornings with the person you love; moonlight and the amber glow of the city filtering through your window after a big night out in your favourite sparkly dress. All the while, Roco Moroi Thorn’s haunting sound design echoes the heady fever of young love.
CORE would benefit from more concision and dramaturgical clarity, especially because time jumps are at play – will landlines still be a thing in the future? Regardless, it stands tall on strong bones: the performances, the design elements, and Salmon’s script, which pinpoints some (unfortunately!) relatable sticking points. I see elements of my past dysfunctional relationships in every beer can, hear them in every telephone ring, read them in every email I wasn’t meant to, feel them in every lingering touch. CORE distils a universal subject down into an accessible story sprinkled with specificity. Just like Ricky, I think it’s the small things that capture the true essence of love, and in those little, carefully curated details, you’ll find CORE’s strength and its beauty.