Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Deep Space - review

Written by: Andrew Crane (@AndrewRCrane)

Old Red Lion Theatre, London

Sprocket Theatre don’t waste any time in setting the mood for their presentation of Lila Wheelan’s bleak new play The Deep Space. On entering the dimly lit auditorium, the audience is greeted by a girl in a tracksuit huddled on a camp bed, a traumatised look across her face. This proves a fitting warm-up for the oncoming slew of gritty drama and disturbing realism, and although the emotional punches it throws certainly sting, they lack the heavyweight to knock out.

The play explores the intimate details of working class Samantha’s (Abbiegale Duncan) life in the lead up to a tragedy, as they are drawn out by Lawyer/Psychiatrist/Caseworker Caitlin (Lila Whelan) as the two converse in a sort of holding cell. The setting and character details are deliberately vague as the slow and steady flow of information to eventually reveal the entire picture is the main technique employed to keep a firm grasp on the audience.

The intimate setting of the Old Red Lion Theatre is used to strong effect, projecting the audience into the heart of the unfolding turmoil, and with the cast of only four, connection with the characters is maximised through this. One of the most interesting design elements of the set is the newspapers that adorn the walls, which hint at an exploration of media portrayals versus truth. During the play however this concept seems to be ignored, choosing to show only a dark reality which although powerful, could have been made more interesting had this context been further explored. This is really where the play falters; the horrors it presents are given little context or presented from any new angle and consequentially aren’t particularly thought provoking and can sometimes fall a little flat 

Despite this, Claude Girardi’s direction is very slick, transitions between the present and flashbacks into Samantha’s life are handled with a minimum of fuss; sound fades in and the lighting changes and the piece flows because of it, ensuring that the audience isn’t given reason to lose focus, which is further aided with each member of the cast giving a commendable performanceDuncan as Samantha displays a touching vulnerability and gives strong cause for empathy, whilst Oliver Yellop as her boyfriend Liam manages to believably create the charming yet deplorable duality of his character’s personality. Sarah Fraser skilfully delivers our much needed comic relief as Samantha’s ditzy friend XXXX, without ever devaluing the drama of the piece, and Whelan provides us with arguably the most intriguing character of the piece with the cold and mysterious Caitlin, who despite being the one asking all the questions, threatens to reveal secrets of her own.

In this production, Sprocket Theatre has displayed a considerable amount of talent and promise as a budding new company. Although The Deep Space doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table with the themes it presents, it is nonetheless an engaging and powerful piece of theatre.

This production runs until 9th March 2013.
@ORLtheatre @SprocketTheatre

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