Tag Archives: Anna Clock

Armadillo
★★★★

The Yard Theatre

Armadillo

Armadillo

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 5th June 2019

★★★★

 

“at an unsettling, anxiety-inducing pitch, the play takes us to the darkest corners of our society”

 

In small town America, Sam (Michelle Fox) and her husband John (Mark Quartley) have a thing for guns. ‘Thing’ as in obsession: they can’t leave the house or sleep without one. ‘Thing’ also as in fetish: the cold steel plays a prominent role in their sex life. Sam was kidnapped when she was thirteen. Someone with a gun rescued her. Guns are her comfort and her safety.

But one night, John accidentally shoots Sam in the arm during a sex game, and they decide to cut guns out of their lives completely. This is easier said than done when Sam’s brother Scotty (Nima Taleghani) comes to stay with a full arsenal, and the news reports a local girl, Jessica, has been kidnapped. All of Sam’s unresolved emotions come flooding back. Under the pressure, cracks spread through Sam and John’s marriage, Sam’s mental stability, and their gun-abstinence pact.

Far from being simple gun control propaganda, Sarah Kosar’s Armadillo is bold enough to delve into an issue most of us want to see as black and white. At an unsettling, anxiety-inducing pitch, the play takes us to the darkest corners of our society: where young girls are kidnapped, sexually abused, and murdered. Where even the staunchest anti-gun activists might catch themselves thinking, ‘if I’d had a gun…’

The design team submerges us into the nightmare, creating a paranoid fever-dream of flashing neon lights and pulsing, hallucinatory blackouts (Jessica Hung Han Yun), sharp sounds (Anna Clock), and disrupted media projections (Ash J Woodward). Like ticking bombs, the constant, ominous presence of guns keeps the audience on edge throughout the ninety minutes. Stuffed in couch cushions, under pillows, in the freezer, firearms are littered throughout Jasmine Swan’s clever, intriguing set. Raised platforms display a deconstructed house (a mattress, a toilet), encircled by calf-deep water.

Kosar impressively interrogates the complexity of Sam’s trauma as she struggles with whether she’s justified in being as damaged as she is. “Nothing really even happened!” people love telling her, since her kidnapper threatened but never touched her. However, John and Scotty are noticeably shallower characters. The dialogue between the three of them is uneven, awkward, and unnatural, which carries over into Fox, Quartley, and Taleghani’s delivery. It may be a stylistic choice by Kosar and director Sara Joyce as part of the uncomfortable, surreal aesthetic, but the stilted lines prevent the characters (even Sam) from feeling like real people, which makes them difficult to connect with.

There’s plenty of sharp observation in the play’s themes of addiction, enabling (and the guilt that motivates it), coping with trauma, toxic relationships, fetishising violence, and self-destructive behaviour. Armadillos famously jump when scared, which often results in them being hit by cars that would have harmlessly passed over them. Their defence ironically puts them in more danger. It’s a shrewd analogy for the way Americans reach for automatic weapons in search of safety.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Maurizio Martorana

 


Armadillo

The Yard Theatre until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
Sex Sex Men Men | ★★★★★ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Soft Animals

Soft Animals
★★★★

Soho Theatre

Soft Animals

Soft Animals

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 11th February 2019

★★★★

 

“written with tender intelligence and a pinch of knowing wit”

 

The Soho Theatre is renowned for championing new writing, offering platforms to the brightest new playwrights this country has to offer. Soft Animals, the debut play by Holly Robinson, is a solid example of this. A pacy examination of ethics, exploring unorthodox friendships amidst an age of blame and hate.

Sarah (Ellie Piercy) is scrubbing graffitied obscenities off her front door. Frankie (Bianca Stephens) is struggling to do the most basic of daily tasks. Since the tragic accident that brought these two women together, the last thing either expected would be to find comfort and solace from each other’s company. Battling through the mountain of hate mail and social media death threats, it is their shared need to self-destruct in order to deal with their pain, which strangely offers them a chance to save one another.

Holly Robinson certainly does a creditable job on her first play. Soft Animals is written with tender intelligence and a pinch of knowing wit. You can tell she delights in drip feeding the audience the integral bits of information, gradually forming the bigger picture of what the accident entailed. The suspense that ensues makes for compelling viewing.

The odd bits of commentary on racial inequality and stereotyping, as well as the acknowledgment of still recognisable class structures, adds relevancy, even if at times it feels like it’s executed heavy handedly. The small yet priceless comedic observations on 21st-century life help to bring lighter moments to what otherwise would be an awful amount of troubling darkness.

The two actors nimbly dance around the shifting status of their characters’ relationship as it moves from being like mother and daughter, to patient and carer, to being part romantic, to part dependent.

Performed in the round, in a very intimate space, you can feel the claustrophobic intensity of Sarah and Frankie’s connection. You are very much a part of the action which makes it completely absorbing. The clever design of soft-play like furniture that affix together in building block fashion, is an understated nod to lost childhood which becomes a significant part of the plot (without giving too much away).

We live in a world where online trolling and anger-filled social media posts occurs ferociously. Robinson uses this cultural climate to colour the environment in which her characters have to battle. It places the play completely in our zeitgeist. But what truly stands out is the multi-faceted qualities of female friendships and how intense a female bond can be.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Helen Maybanks

 


Soft Animals

Soho Theatre until 2nd March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Sugar Baby | ★★★★ | May 2018
Flesh & Bone | ★★★★★ | July 2018
There but for the Grace of God (Go I) | ★★★★ | August 2018
Fabric | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Political History of Smack and Crack | ★★★★ | September 2018
Pickle Jar | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Cuckoo | ★★★ | November 2018
Chasing Bono | ★★★★ | December 2018
Laura | ★★★½ | December 2018
No Show | ★★★★ | January 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com