Love isn’t precisely a tangible thing, by its nature, but it does leave remnants. In Extinguished Things, writer-performer Molly Taylor describes how she has returned to live with her parents following a break-up, some 17 years after she first left home.
On hearing her childhood neighbours, Alton and Evie, have died on a retirement coach trip, Taylor finds herself drawn to their house, where she used to do odd jobs, and begins sifting through the bric-a-brac of their lives together. She’s a spy in the house of love: sketching together an idea of a couple she only knew superficially, realising for the first time that the elderly pair she could barely manage small-talk with were young once, and glorious.
The remembrances/imaginings are richly drawn, dancing easily between the political and the frivolous, the romantic and the tragic. A record by The Specials prompts a description of Al and Evie’s fear in the face of the Toxteth riots, Al being of Jamaican descent, Evie being white. A scarf triggers memories of Evie discovering the glories of football, the kettle, of the heartache they feel when she miscarries. Each mundane object is a totem. Forty years is enshrined in a living room.
Taylor’s performance is compassionate and lively – she knows well how to keep the audience riveted, despite the simplicity of her premise and Jade Lewis’ economical direction. Where Taylor is extraordinary, though, is as a writer, each vignette proving poignant. Her prose is poetic but never flowery, having something of the expressive precision of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics. Tonally, too, Taylor takes us through all that life has to offer with equal proficiency: she’s as adept at conjuring joy as she is at eliciting tears.
While it may seem humble in the watching, the show will linger long in the memory. What will survive of us is love.