Outside at The Space

“Outside” from The Space

This initially intriguing show, written and performed by Gabrielle MacPherson, has the scenario of a woman imprisoned at home from a young age being interviewed in a witness questioning room. That you need to know the outline – before watching – is the first of several problems distracting from the talent and ideas on offer.

Revealing the abuse that the character of Willa has suffered is done well – it holds attention. Looking for “clues and evidence” about her life adds an investigative element akin to a thriller that has potential. But the device of Willa being interrogated ends up bizarre: there are several disembodied voices in the production (Willa has improbably recorded people from the age of six) that do little apart from puzzle.

There are too many loose ends in a script hampered by unimaginative descriptions. A little more input from the outside world is needed – even if only showing ineffective social services. More could be made of the father’s occupation as a publisher; that books are the only source of Willa’s knowledge, leading her to create a “fantasy world”, is an interesting idea. And the existence of a brother is mentioned so infrequently it is confusing.

It doesn’t help that Willa is depicted as an “adult idiot”. Maybe it makes sense that, denied socialisation, she has to assert “I am a grown up”. And MacPherson’s performance, aided by director Karis Crimson, is focused and consistent. That the character blames herself for the abuse shows insight. But the delivery becomes annoying. The infantile gestures and relentless breathlessness grates. Attempts at humour are weak. Rather than generate sympathy it makes the show a long 70 minutes.

It’s strange and frustrating that a solution is presented that could make the play more interesting. The sinister side of Willa herself, introduced in a well-played mention of her abusing a kitten, could aid considerably. But the option needs far more to prepare us for the play’s finale. We only get some creepy singing and spooky papier-mâché. Outside adds up to merely odd, when it might be much more.

Until 20 February 2021