Tag Archives: Sara Joyce

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

 

Dust – 5 Stars

Dust

Dust

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 7th September 2018

★★★★★

“The writing is sensational; Thomas’ performance more so.”

 

Alice? Who the f**k is Alice? She’s the girl next door, of course. She’s the girl who’s doing fine. You know she is because she’s always telling you “I’m fine”. She’s also sassy. But she’s a bitch, a misanthrope. A bit too promiscuous. She’s funny. But sometimes sad. She’s taken her sadness and turned it into anger. She’s the girl you don’t quite understand. She’s the girl you don’t want to understand, the girl whose best friend has asked her to move out and go back home, the girl whose parents worry about but don’t ask too many questions. She’s Alice, the girl you’ve got to get used to not living next door to.

She’s the girl who is dead.

Alice is the protagonist of “Dust”, written and performed by Milly Thomas. On paper, the premise of a one-woman show about depression is a bit of a bleak prospect. Yet it is immediately clear why this show has made such a rapid journey from Edinburgh, to London’s Soho Theatre and now into the West End, picking up awards on the way. The writing is sensational; Thomas’ performance more so. Shockingly unrestrained, fearless and honest, this is theatre that makes you laugh out loud and fight back tears in the same breath.

Alice emerges at the start of the play from a mortuary slab. Having just killed herself she now has to witness the aftermath and the impact on her family and friends. From her vantage point she watches, and comments. Thomas’ gift for story telling is in the detail and we are presented with a very vivid picture of Alice in both life and death. This never feels like a one-woman show as Alice imitates the other characters, switching accents and personalities within a whisper, running the gamut of emotions, and then back to herself. The ghost. Watching. And still trying to make sense of it all.

It is mesmerising.

It is a tragedy and a comedy rolled into one, where descriptions of graphic sex lie alongside family photos, where Alice’s struggle to come to terms with her own suicide grapples with her need to read her friends’ Facebook posts about it. Tirades and curses share the same phrase with sharp one-liners and heart-wrenching pleas for understanding. But what is missing, and this is undoubtedly intentional, is that we are given no explanation. Alice never takes us back to search for an underlying cause for her depression. There is no childhood trauma, no abuse. In short, we get no back story whatsoever.

Which is precisely the point. Like death, depression has no prejudice. It can happen to anyone. Often there is no reason. Yet there is also no reason why those afflicted should end up like Alice. This is what Milly Thomas’ outstanding production is telling us, and I hope it encourages people to discuss the issues, even if we never fully understand the nature of depression. Thomas implores us to “talk to each other – not talking is killing us.” This is an absolute must see for anybody who is affected, directly or indirectly, by depression.

Correction: this is an absolute must see for anybody.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Richard Southgate

 


Dust

Trafalgar Studios until 13th October

 

 

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