Tom Powell’s intriguing play is full of memorable moments. The story of a therapist called Luc, whose guilt and grief push her towards mental health problems, the piece is inventive – and takes the risks that bold theatre-making requires.
In short, it doesn’t all work, even if it is always interesting. The idea of projecting Luc’s thoughts on to the stage is done well with some nice animation and typography. But might the idea, and some easy humour, detract from the fine performance of Rosie Gray, who takes the part?
Hearing the negative thoughts Luc suffers from makes the character solipsistic and the play narrow. Other roles, well performed by Daniel Rainford, are too close to simply being foils. The focus is admirable, but the result is cold. More of Luc’s mother and her friend would be great, please.
When it comes to Luc’s struggle with reality – theatrically – Surfacing is a mixed bag. If the mice Luc is paranoid about are supposed to be scary, I’d count that a fail. And talking to her microwave as if it is her manager at work is weak. There’s an Alice in Wonderland air that is intriguing (it works well when she is stealing a car) but sometimes too much of a puzzle. Yet a simple scene with Luc swimming is a highlight. And one with balloons and her dead brother, with Gray and Rainsford showing impressive physicality, is excellent.
Director Stephen Bailey shares Powell’s efforts to keep the play tight. But the subject is big, and any takeaway necessarily provisional… which may frustrate some. The idea of a crisis in mental health possessing an element of exhilaration as well as being scary is fascinating. But Surfacing suffers from its brevity. The ideas are there but need expanding.
Until 19 February
Poster artwork by Bjorn Bauer