How lovely it is to see Siwan Morris back on stage at Theatr Clwyd and how beautifully matched she is by Polly Frame in this taunt two hander that burrows deep into what must be a woman’s worst fear…how fragile the sanctity of family life can be. Here are two actors at the top of their game delivering stunningly good parts frightening well.
The edgy atmosphere prickles from the off. Gail (Polly Frame) arrives unannounced, out of hours, at the office of Karen (Siwan Morris) who is head of child care services. Frame is belligerent, wheedling and interrogative – with a broad, cheeky-chappie, Northern accent. She plays a woman with utter menace in her grin who can’t hold down a job.
Morris is immediately defensive as a glamorous and successful career woman who is a class or two above her visitor. She tries to be cool and procedural, but her professionality is clearly rattled.
Suffice to say they could not be more different; but there is something in their ‘history’ (I dare not tell you what) that binds them. Gail is determined to exploit this. Karen is determined to stop her. It’s like a game of cat and cat … with a ball of razor wire wool … till a discussion about a day on the beach begins to open up their relationship.
Katherine Chandler has provided them with a most exciting script which swings back and forth with the oscillating balance of power. She gives both women virtues and vulnerabilities; iniquities and insecurities. The actors handle the often-broken dialogue immaculately – being defeated and defiant in turn.
Both are given moments of tender confession about their regrets. Both take glee in turning the knife when they sense they have the upper hand. Both suffer emotional blackmail with despair and then dish it out with venom.
It’s an exhausting 80 minutes for all concerned. And, thanks to a surprisingly ‘administrative’ final twist, the writer produces a phoenix of hope at the bottom of the play’s destructive vortex.
There are however some directional points I’d take issue with.
Roisin McBrinn bombards us. The style is very mannered and, ironically for a two person show, feels too loud and large for the intimacy of the Emlyn Williams studio. As the tension rises, the raised stage suddenly comes loose and wobbles as the actors move on it. I imagine the idea is to emphasis the instability of their relationship. But it’s distracting. I just worried for the actors. And they are doing such a grand job, the added ‘effect’ is superfluous.
That apart, this is a classy piece of new theatre; strong on originality and impact; reaching out beyond the obvious to deliver new challenges to its audience.
Photo : Pamela Raith
Visit www.theatrclwyd.com for bookings & information about Theatr Clwyd.