The tension is like a tidal wave in Flora Wilson Brown’s dark, seeping play. Two conversations are layered on top of each other, their speech overlapping, secrets biting at their sides. Performed with brilliant control by the three actors, Wilson Brown’s writing pinpoints the giddy brightness of an old friendship, the full-bodied repulsion of an abusive relationship, and the torturous reality of the same person being at the centre of both.
Mid-20s friends from university, Hannah and Max (Martha Watson Allpress and Ethan Moorhouse), are driving to a wedding. Rather than sitting side by side, Harry Tennison’s direction has them gad about the stage, chasing and teasing. This dynamism echoes the way they open up to each other, the way people do on a long drive. Weaving between their words and space is Alice (Hannah Khalique-Brown), recording her testimony about a musician who has been grooming her since she was 16. We realise almost immediately, she is talking about Max.
Occasional lines are lost as the conversations overlay, but the overall effect is rich and exciting. This is the way real stories are told – messy, multiple strands, all at once. The anguish of Alice’s experience is enhanced by hearing details of Max’s manipulation at the same moment he’s singing along to Abba with his friend, silly, free, and beaming. It outlines her vulnerability; that there are two of them and one of her makes her feel even more alone.
As the story unravels, Alice makes clear the things he has ruined for her. More subtle but just as painful is Hannah’s guilt at having let it all happen. This is astute, impressive writing, with thoughtful staging, confident performances, and delicate, rumbling sound design underlining the sharpest moments of horror and gut-punch grief.