If you’re looking for a good little thriller for these long dark nights this new play by Catherine Lucie serves smart chills. It’s the story of Bronagh, a new mother in an unhappy relationship, who lives an isolated existence and suffers a mental breakdown after a drunken night that is connected – possibly – to a disappearance.
It’s a twisty plot, not to be spoiled, but it’s clear from the start, as she struggles with dreams, myths and memories, that Bronagh is not a reliable narrator. How much and how consciously she manipulates recollections remains the tantalising open question. Psychology and a suggestion of the supernatural are all juggled well by director Blythe Stewart, with the aid of Holly Pigott’s superb set of rotating screens, and some nicely creepy aural contributions from Anna Clock.
There’s some physics, too, via a book Bronagh has read that seems, understandably, to have further addled her brain. This is an interesting avenue that needs clearer elaboration to help the audience a bit. The dialogue isn’t flawless (there’s a ‘gee whizz’), and both male roles could have more depth – a policeman investigating the missing person lacks a dangerous edge. The seeds are there and I wonder if some editing has been too ruthless? Meanwhile, Bronagh’s partner is too generic a “bad sort” and too gullible. Both roles are well performed, by Pat Magnanti and Oliver Britten respectively, but the play is short and they could have easily been extended.
In the lead role Jill McAusland does an excellent job with a fascinating character. Is Bronagh “not clever enough” or really a “clever clogs”? She is frightened one moment and calculating the next. Sympathetic and scary is a tough call for a performer but McAusland makes you care about the character a great deal. Lucie mixes mental health and domestic abuse issues to great effect, making this a thought-provoking piece. But above all, it is a great yarn, deserving of all those words that make a thriller: intense, taut, engrossing, exciting and entertaining. This play gets a star for each.
Until 3 March 2018
Photo by The Other Richard