Friday, 25 October 2019

Splinter, Griffin, SBW Stables Theatre

A couple are reunited with their missing infant daughter and have retreated to a beach shack in an attempt to get their lives back on track. But the father is disconcerted by how the girl has changed, and begins to wonder whether she really is his daughter - and that splinter of doubt begins to rot everything around it...

Hilary Bell wrote one of the great plays about children and their disconcerting unknowability in "Wolf Lullaby", and this later play (originally premiered in 2012) plays in some of the same fields, although with a lot more ambiguity - the characters are just known as Man, Woman and Laura (in the original production, Laura was played by a puppet, in this production she's a voice over). It's a challenging piece for audience and performers, and ... I'm not sure this production entirely meets all the challenges. I liked Lucy Bell's performance as the woman, but Simon Gleeson's performance never quite dove into the emotional turmoil the role seems to demand - he always seemed at a slight remove, indicating the emotional journey rather than disappearing inside it. And with what is basically a two hander, if 50% of the performers don't feel quite right, it's going to be a struggle. I liked the design of this (Tobhiyah Stone Feller's set, Benjamin Brookman's lighting and Mic Gruchy's video all combine to bring out some fascinating effects), and the general intent of Lee Lewis's production seemed valid. But at this performance, it didn't seem to realise all the potential there is in the script. So this has to be marked as a disappointment.