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‘WOMAN IN MIND’
This play was most enjoyable. The staging was simple and functional. I appreciated the lighting effects which showed Susan’s imaginary life in bright “sunny” lighting as opposed to her real life which was lit in noticeably dimmer hues. This was a simple effect which enabled the audience members to distinguish between the two.
Jill Davies’ portrayal of Susan was inspired. Jill showed a real understanding of Susan’s character and her situation. One of the first things that struck me was Susan’s poise and dignity and this was carried throughout the play; even at her lowest ebb. I initially found myself wishing that Susan’s imaginary world could come true for her but through the clever writing, directing and acting it soon became obvious that it is often impractical for that type of world to exist. I loved Susan’s facial expressions; especially in the scene where Gerald and Bill were talking about Susan as if she wasn’t there, when in fact she was standing right next to them! The look of incredulity and frustration on Susan’s face really came across to the audience. I felt that Jill portrayed how complex and tiring an internal monologue can be; I expect Jill was drained by the end of each performance.
I enjoyed Rob Lewis’s performance as Bill. Bill immediately came across as incompetent and geeky but as an audience member I also grew fond of him. I felt that the dialogue between Bill and Susan at the beginning of the play was a little stilted; it lacked flow. However, this quickly improved. Bill was an endearing character.
John Kensett as Gerald displayed overbearing, condescending and sneering characteristics to good effect; I believe these characteristics were necessary in order to show the audience the contrast between Susan’s two lives.
Vicki Harris’s portrayal of Muriel was enjoyable; just the right balance of primness. We were also left in no doubt of her view that she was one of life’s martyrs.
David Martin’s portrayal of Andy was good. He came across as suave and I was aware of his desire to take care of imaginary Susan.
I initially had to strain to hear Sarah Cooper as Lucy, however this improved as the play went on and I enjoyed her performance.
Martin John King’s performance as Tony, Susan’s respectable imaginary brother was enjoyable.
Both Abi Giles and Denis Briggs’ pieces in the programme were well written and from the heart; highlighting the sensitive subject with which the play deals. I could tell that the directors had an extremely good and sympathetic understanding of the subject matter which was conveyed well by the cast. The cast worked well together to highlight the pathos as well as the humour throughout the play.
I particularly enjoyed the general disdain for Hemel Hempstead! I felt that the cast made constructive use of silences in the script without making me, as an audience member, feel uncomfortable.
My biggest issue with the play was that I felt that the play’s descent into confusion and chaos was somewhat protracted. I am aware that this is primarily down to Alan Ayckbourn’s writing but perhaps the Directors could have looked into the possibility of script cuts.
I came away with an awareness that there is still a lack of sensitivity in the way society deals with mental health issues. The cast and directors managed to highlight the blurred lines which can exist in life between what is perceived to be real and what is not and very much left me questioning what is “normal”.
Reviewed by Leigh Holden
Breakaway Theatre Company
“WOMAN IN MIND ”
Directors: Denis Briggs & Abi Giles
review date: 26th Feb 2014
The Maltings Theatre, St.Albans