Tag Archives: Helen Maybanks

Blank

[BLANK]

★★★★

Donmar Warehouse

Blank

[ BLANK ]

Donmar Warehouse

Reviewed – 23rd October 2019

★★★★

 

“cleverly creeps under our skin as a piece of theatre and leaves us with a lot to contemplate”

 

A woman breaks into her parents’ home to steal money for drugs; a prisoner sees every object as a possible way of killing herself; a sex worker waits in the cold for an extra ten pounds…

For forty years, Clean Break has been changing the future of women during and after their time in prison by both providing an outlet to challenge their misrepresentation in popular entertainment and as a formative process for learning, expression and evolution. Alice Birch’s commission to celebrate this gives carte blanche from a selection of 100 scenes – any number, any order – which address the manifold causes, processes and effects of being caught up in the criminal justice system. By the very nature of the crimes women commit, locking them away is less a safety measure for the rest of society than distancing them from their own threats with devastating repercussions for them, those they depend on and who depend on them. Director, Maria Aberg, has carefully chosen and arranged her selection to touch on lives blighted by a structure which does not confront these complex pastoral issues.

With a brilliant choice of cast, the scope for illustrating the breadth of age, race and class of these women works well visually as well as within the script. Rosie Elnile’s versatile set of raised, individual box rooms around a central space forms different levels of impact for the audience, from the feeling of observed, intimate conversations of abusive relationships and foster care to being drawn into the group spirit of prison life. Some scenes work better than others, however, which produces a somewhat uneven flow. After fragments of emotional experiences at home and in prison, of mothers, daughters, prisoners and staff, the action’s centrepiece (and scene number 100) is a dinner party of old friends. Here Birch brings together all the elements of the good-doing, professional society, patting each other on the back and having another glass of wine. The overlapping conversation between the guests is superb, hypocrisy slowly smouldering as their personalities unfold (the detective, the documentary maker, the therapist, the charity volunteers…) until the one outsider, played by Shona Babayemi, in a passionate outburst, can stand the insincerity no longer.

There are strong performances all round, though our natural expectations for an imposed narrative makes it difficult to completely engage with the characters. Thusitha Jayasundera shows us the painful impotence of a mother who is told her daughter has committed suicide in prison and we feel the confused heartbreak of Joanna Horton as the mother who sees no option for her children but to kill them. In a truly sobering moment, Lucy Edkins and Kate O’Flynn’s quietly powerful final scene as mother and daughter sums up the tragic personal loss of the ignored. Despite the dark and distressing subject, the writing, acting and direction balances sadness with humour. ‘Blank’ cleverly creeps under our skin as a piece of theatre and leaves us with a lot to contemplate.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Helen Maybanks

 


[BLANK]

Donmar Warehouse until 30th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Appropriate | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Girl Who Fell

The Girl Who Fell

★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

The Girl Who Fell

The Girl Who Fell

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 17th October 2019

★★★★

 

“a warm piece of theatre brimming over with emotional honesty”

 

Set in the aftermath of a tragic suicide, The Girl Who Fell is play about those left behind. Sam – a never-to-be sixteen year old – is the missing piece the story revolves around as it follows her family and friends grappling with loss and their own burden of guilt. This is a production where the walls come down – both literally and metaphorically. As the rustic, stripped-down set (Georgia de Grey) peels away block by block, so do the barriers the characters have put up to defend themselves, making for a warm piece of theatre brimming over with emotional honesty.

Each character has their own cross to bear with respect to Sam’s death. Claire Goose plays an instantly recognisable fraught mother battling for control, who is blamed by others for the suicide due to her harsh punishment becoming broadcast on the internet. Her superb performance is complimented by those of Rosie Day and Will Fletcher, who fill the roles of Sam’s best friend Billie and boyfriend Lenny so well that by the end of the play you have forgotten that the actors are not really teenagers. From the outset it is clear that these three have relationships with complex undercurrents, and throughout their stories they walk a messy, angry line between looking after each other and tearing each other down.

Introduced initially as a romantic interest for mum Thea, Gil (Navin Chowdhry) is the character last to the stage, and the slowest to unravel, but it is satisfying to see that he too is connected to the death in more ways than one. The script (Sarah Rutherford) times its key reveals and hooks well but is also full of refreshing doses of humour. Paired with Hannah Price’s direction, which brings a wonderful amount of movement and energy to a play about death, and the lighting (Robbie Butler) and sound (Adrienne Quartly), it delivers a tender and touching exploration of grief, blame, and the worst impulses in human nature.

Addressing such broad themes, the play almost seems timeless and that is perhaps its only failure. For all that Sam’s death can be seen as intrinsically linked to her life as part of the social media generation, the unique ways modern life can impact on being a teenager – and being a parent – seem to be largely glossed over in favour of an appeal to universalism. But, nevertheless, there is certainly lots of substance for viewers to contemplate. With its well-woven character backstories and sincere musings on faith, family, and forgiveness, The Girl Who is Fell is a rich treat of a story with wide-ranging appeal.

 

Reviewed by Vicky Richards

Photography by Helen Maybanks

 


The Girl Who Fell

Trafalgar Studios until 23rd November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019
Equus | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Actually | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Fishermen | ★★★½ | September 2019
A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg | ★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews