Sad review – a woman on holiday from reality | Theatre

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Gloria has installed herself in the attic. For good. Her daughter has upped sticks to Australia, she’s barely on speaking terms with her husband and the turkey has “murdered” her mother. Victoria Willing’s latest play bristles with the same deadpan darkness as her breakthrough show, Spring Offensive. It’s held together by a sharp sense of humour and truthfulness but could do with a bit more fire in the belly.

Surrounded by dust and debris, in an economically effective set from Alys Whitehead, Gloria sits on a deckchair with her daylight lamp turned on full blast. She’s a woman on permanent holiday from reality. Debra Baker does well to bring light and shade to the central role but she’s a little muted. While Gloria is clearly struggling with depression, she’s also an ex-punk with a vicious temper who is more than capable, you sense (in all too brief glimpses), of burning everything to the ground if only she would rouse herself and light the match.

The dialogue never feels as alive as Gloria’s monologues but there are fleeting moments of insight: the ugly liaisons with ghastly leftie neighbour Daniel, played with glowing smugness by Lucas Hare; the delicate sparks of affection with Gloria’s burned-out husband Graham (Kevin N Golding); the straight-talking relationship with eastern European best friend Magda, performed with biting precision by Izabella Urbanowicz.

The scenes are tied together with an increasingly ropey plot and the energy of Marie McCarthy’s production never lifts beyond a hard-working hum. That’s a shame because there are some provocative ideas in here – particularly about how women can feel hidden in plain sight, lost in the heart of their own home.



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