Click here for more Alphabetti Theatre listings. The Frights runs until May 21st.
Reviewed by Aysha Aslan
Written by Louise Taylor and directed by Alphabetti Theatre founder Ali Pritchard The Frights begins with a few seconds of chilling silence that foreshadows the intensity that myself and the rest of the audience are to be subjected to.
The play begins directly after the return of activist Hanny (Christina Berriman Dawson) from overseas after being held captive for three months. Her concerned boyfriend Luke (James Hedley) is by her side as they arrive at the bank where they are joined by Kieran (Jacob Anderton) and Tash (Sally Collet), a struggling couple in need of financial help. Through the interactions of the four characters, we are alerted to inconsistencies in Hanny’s headline-making story, her motives and the strain it places on her relationship with Luke. Throughout these exchanges, Hanny’s distorted memories of her captivity bubble up to the surface and so do Luke’s rosy flashbacks of earlier times.
With the minimalistic stage design, a more intimate and personal connection between audience and performers is maintained from the beginning until the very end.
The lighting is pivotal here in facilitating the disturbing interjections between present and past. From the raw enactments of Hanny’s torture scenes, to Luke’s reminiscence of the bloom of their relationship, the actors’ skilful adaptability to each abruptly changing scene had the audience completely transfixed. Hanny’s time in captivity is so shudder-inducing, in fact, that it is as if we are transported to an all too real torture scene viciously unfolding before us.
Twisted and interspersed with dark humour, The Frights is an eye-opening piece that provides insight into shocking and harrowing occurrences that are happening to many across the globe. Astounding and confrontational, it raises many questions about taking for granted what is being presented to us by the media and others as being the ’truth’. Is it justifiable to manipulate the truth in order to protect our loved ones or to help others? Are the holes in Hanny’s story intentional or did they result from her confusion due to the shock caused by what she has had to endure? Audiences will leave asking themselves these questions and more after this performance.
Adding to the emotional rollercoaster of the evening were the two ‘Response Plays’, both directed by Matt Jamie and performed by Rosie Stancliffe and Luke Maddison. Inspired by certain aspects of The Frights, the ‘Response Plays’ couldn’t be any more different but the well-thought order in which they are performed manages to steer the audience into calmer waters while still presenting the key themes of the source material. In one evening, we are taken from the nerve-wracking events of The Frights to the gloomy sombreness of The Ties that Bind and finally, the comedy of Fresh Start with its slightly dark undertones.
Written by Amy Mitchell, The Ties that Bind is an enigmatic piece that explores the nature of the relationship between captor and captive and the warped development of feelings of affection and adoration that bind the captive to her captor (we are essentially presented with a case of Stockholm Syndrome).
Furthermore, there are time lapses in the play and transitions from scenes of the woman waiting for her visitor (he may be a guard tasked with monitoring her), to her erratic ramblings about her past including her mother, loss and other previous memories. Her captor’s manipulations can be clearly seen in the changes in his personality during his different visitations. The dark obscurity of the different events taking place allows viewers to come up with their own interpretations of the play.
Arabella Arnott’s Fresh Start is a contemporary, modern-day piece that is set in a restaurant. Kudos to both Stancliffe and Madison, who brilliantly transformed within the very, very short time frame of five minutes into Suzan and Josh, who meet up for their very first date connecting on an online dating website. Their encounter is awkward, funny, and full of silly blunders. However, the light-heartedness of the situation is dampened as they begin to discover some not-so-pleasant details about each other, hinting that there’s only so much you can handle when meeting someone for the first time.