A brave performance leaves emotional blood-stains

Directed by Lee Lewis (Griffin Theatre Company), this was the local premiere of a play that asks hard questions of those playing Anna (Brenna​ Harding) and Renee​ (Hannah Waterman), and that offers rewarding roles for Penny Cook (as Vivienne, Anna’s psychiatrist) and Shiv Palekar (Oliver, her temporary boyfriend). The three female characters are all manipulative without being malicious, while Palekar’s​ warm-hearted, ever-more bewildered Oliver learns what it’s like to stand on the St Andreas Fault when the earth starts to move.

For the play to work Lewis had to keep a lid on the early scenes, and Harding’s first-half performance can seem mannered and excessively technical as she depicts someone on a tight leash, while seething inwardly. When she chews her way off that leash, however, she delivers a brave, raw, unruly, frightening performance.

Waterman is just as good. Renee​ has spent a splintered life amid Anna’s capacity to spread misery and ecstasy, and forgivably​ prefers a predictable median. When that predictability unravels again her pent-up sadness, anger and frustration erupts. Cook, meanwhile, catches Vivienne’s empathy, resignation and self-righteousness with fine levels of gradation.

Despite the play seeming too volcanic for a neat ending to be apt, Feaver finds a closing ritual as affecting as the Pope washing the feet of the poor.

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