Reviewed – 14th March 2018
“the beast is visible hanging around her more persuasively than any prosthetics could”
There is a sign on the door of The Pit, a subterranean little dungeon in the Vaults, warning of, among other things, strobe effects and a lycanthrope. And there she is as we take our seats, lying in the corner of the stage, thankfully chained, and asleep. And in the human form of Arabella Gibbins.
In this one-woman show, the werewolf is interrogated over a period of weeks by her silent and unseen captor – a neat device to justify the monologue of her story. After an icy, intense opening, the werewolf’s story of how she came to be incarcerated becomes highly engaging, often funny, and incredibly relatable. Gibbins’ portrayal is wonderful, and the beast is visible hanging around her more persuasively than any prosthetics could – and yet somehow never loses that human touch.
Conceptually, the Big Bad is terrific, using the stalking horse of a werewolf story to provide a novel scope for themes of entrapment, power, and the experience of being a (were)woman. This is supported by excellent writing, peppered with eerily familiar references and double-meanings, to drive home a story that is both gripping and meaningful. The text is carefully crafted to feel whole, and complete. Nothing is forgotten – nothing is said without reason.
Assistant producer Esmee West-Agboola is not wrong when she says that The Pit at the Vaults is “bloody perfect for the world premiere of Big Bad” – with the addition of a bucket, a blanket, and a chain, the prison is brought to life. Special credit goes to the chain, which is an able co-star for Gibbins, as she bangs and clatters it with her changing moods.
Big Bad is as visceral as it is stripped back and as believable as it is extraordinary. This is top quality fringe theatre and must not be missed.
Reviewed by Matthew Wild
Vaults Theatre until 18th March