Winter 2022 Editor’s Pick — Drama
Sarah Wallis’ comedic stage play My Psycho Ex Was an Angel is a genuine delight to read. As an editor, I was instantly captivated by its unusual plot and surreal tone. The scene painted for us is one of a first date, which is taking place in an art gallery between Adrian and Claire. It quickly becomes evident that Claire is resigned to the rendezvous being unsuccessful and is much too occupied with thoughts about her ex. Adrian, meanwhile, is completely disinterested in the art they are there to see and futilely pursues Claire’s attention throughout. Claire’s comments about her ex gradually disclose that he is stalking her; Wallis takes this serious subject matter and turns it into a comedy by revealing that her ex is an angel, Gabriel, who uses a ‘heavenly choir’ and falling feathers to reinforce his presence even now that they have separated, thereby preventing Claire from moving on to another relationship. This is a completely absurd plot and therefore Adrian’s quiet acceptance of this reality is even more amusing to visualise.
His lack of surprise emphasises his resignation, which is the mood at the forefront of this drama. A further example of this is when Adrian does not seem particularly annoyed when Claire calls him Adam; he merely enquires if this was the name of her ex. Throughout the play, this flatness and absence of shock is reinforced in the tone of both characters’ dialogue. This creates a sense of futility which is at odds with the biblical references because religion is typically associated with hope. This could suggest that Wallis’ play is a kind of commentary on the deflated state of Christian religion in the modern world. However, to reduce the play to this alone would be to overlook the humour at the heart of Wallis’ writing style.
Satire is also central to the drama. For example, Claire comments that she is ‘sick to death of the heavenly fucking choir. Totally overrated’. This draws the audience’s attention towards the cliches of romance and the problematic Western association which is made between love and angels or gods. This is evident in the narratives of Cupid and the popular idolisation of lovers as angels. As with any satirical mode, this allows Wallis to cast a critical eye on the absurdities of romance, which adds a further depth of meaning to this wonderful stage play.
Another aspect of this text which I wanted to pick up on was its musicality. Not only does it use sound effects within the plot, such as the ‘beat’, the characters’ dialogue also has a persistent rhythm to it. Neither character speaks for very long at a time thereby indicating the static and awkward nature of their date and permitting the audience to fully immersive themselves within a fast paced back and forth between the two characters who thus dominate the stage. This impression of rushed time also adds fuel to the theme of futility and resignation, as well as emphasising Claire’s distraction, such that she doesn’t take time over her words. All of this contributes to the surrealist nature of the plot and to its humour. In fact, a skilled sense of time is an essential aspect of comedy and Wallis demonstrates her skill in this aptly.
I hope that this blog post has inspired you to read more of Sarah Wallis’ work and to enjoy it as much as I did. Her play was an excellent addition to our Winter 2022 Issue, and we very much hope to be able to publish more comedic drama in the future.
Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief and Drama Editor
This piece of drama writing has been published in the Winter 2022 Issue of Spellbinder. Read more about it and purchase a digital or paperback copy here.
Read it on the Spellbinder website here.