The Deep Space - Theatre review by Carly Halse

An exploration into the unspeakable, Sprocket Theatre delve into the mind and memories of a woman plagued by the truth.

The Old Red Lion is well known for showcasing exciting new work, and Sprocket Theatre’s The Deep Space most definitely falls into this category. As the play opens, we are introduced to Samantha, a young Northern woman locked inside a room, plagued by her memories. Caitlin, a sleek and composed professional enters the room. Through their increasingly barbed conversation, Caitlin attempts to unravel the tragic sequence of events that have led to Sam’s incarceration.

Through a series of flashbacks we also meet Sam’s husband Liam, a brash and cocksure young man, and her best friend Kay, an ardent Christian with a crush on the charismatic Liam. Played by Oliver Yellop and Sarah Fraser respectively, they also capably multi-role as Sam’s parents. Fraser showcases great comic timing as Kay, providing us with several good laughs and her transformation into Sam’s mother is impressive. As the play continues, Oliver Yellop smoothly brings the darker sides of his character Liam to the fore, transforming him from loveable rogue into a disturbing portrait of a flawed husband.

Although there are a few wordy lines that seem to stumble some of the cast at points, this will lessen as the run continues and the entire cast deserves a huge amount of credit. Each character is intricately developed and truthfully delivered, whilst dropping just enough clues to keep us guessing. Lila Whelan and Abbiegale Duncan’s performances are incredibly moving especially. The development of their relationship is skilfully achieved. Duncan maintains a nervous and wounded energy in her scenes whilst we watch her slowly disintegrate as she grasps for the truth. In contrast, Whelan shrouds her character in mystery and is incredibly ‘watchable’ as Caitlin seems to falter at each revelation.

Significantly, Whelan is also the playwright as well as a cast member. It is an incredible piece of writing that twists and curls like smoke, until we finally reach the intense moment of revelation. It’s hard to go into detail without ruining the experience of the piece, but Whelan’s script, influenced by a shocking true-life incident, crackles with wit, intelligence and stomach-churning horror and she deserves a tremendous amount of praise for both her writing and performance. Claude Girardi’s direction provides an effective, quick pace to the production and some incredibly well thought out blocking of some difficult scenes. However, there are some moments that seem at odds with the rest of production, their realist style jarring with rest of the production, but this is a minor complaint in an otherwise intriguing and exciting new production.

Mention must also be made of the creative set and lighting design (Scott Pryce-Jones), which ably makes use of the sometimes difficult space of The Old Red Lion. Reams of tabloid newspapers are plastered to the walls, their headlines obscured by the grey and grimy material placed in front of them. Contained within these hazy flats that make up Sam’s cell, we can also make out several objects, a scooter, a phone, a pack of cigarettes. These items light up periodically - quickly setting the scene of Sam’s various flashbacks. They are the shadows of things to come, their meanings obscured behind the smoky mesh until the scene plays out. The lighting at the close of the play is particularly effective, providing us with a glimpse inside Sam’s tortured mind.

Overall, The Deep Space is a fantastic piece of theatre exploring the construction of memory and the sometimes painful truths that we all struggle to accept after the smoke clears. After all, “memories are important” and The Deep Space will stay in my memory for a long time coming.

© Carly Halse 2013
Reviewed on Thursday 21st February 2013

The Deep Space by Lila Whelan
Sprocket Theatre
Old Red Lion Theatre
19th Feb – 9 March 2013
7:30pm (running time 110 minutes with 15 minute interval)

Samantha - Abbiegale Duncan
Kay/Mum - Sarah Fraser
Caitlin - Lila Whelan
Liam/Dad - Oliver Yellop

Director – Claude Girardi
Lighting Designer – Scott Pryce-Jones
Stage Management – James Lye, Lex Kelly
Fight Direction – Lyndall Grant
Producers – Lila Whelan, Claude Girardi

Sprocket Theatre –

Warning: Some challenging material of a disturbing nature.

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