TOBY PARKER-REES is impressed by Faith, Rape & Pain.
Corpus Playroom, 2-6th November, 9.30pm, £5-6.
Written & Directed by Luke Al-Rehani
The feeling of walking into a theatre and realising no one else has come is a strange one, and makes a man doubt himself. At the Edinburgh Fringe the average audience is four people. At the performance of Mirror I reviewed, there were three. And one was the usher. This is ridiculous; outside I saw crowds of people singing that song from Glee. Crowds.
Mirror deserves to be seen more than that song from Glee deserves to be sung. Its flaws are far less grating, and its effect far more satisfying. The concept is somewhere between a Medieval morality play and Sartre’s No Exit, but it is gentler than both. The blocking and the dialogue, for the most part, are softly sylphish; three women, personifying Faith, Pain and Rape, drift around each other and try to work out why they’re trapped together.
The words ‘new writing’, along with this construct, will (and have) obviously put people off. This play has few of the traits the dull expect of new writing, however. There was no red light, no tremble-fisted treatment of Themes (they were embodied onstage, so they were able simply to interact) and, most important of all, Anguish was kept to a tasteful minimum. Minimalism, strangely, abounds; enormous ideas are teased easily out and left to unspool into the ether created by Al-Rehani’s text and staging.
There is, as there must be, conflict and all that – but the actors and director successfully create a sense of impassable stasis. Any discord resolves into stoicism or silent catatonia. Al-Rehani fleshes out three impulses and lets them ricochet off each other, and for the most part he does so with consummate skill and restraint. The ending feels rushed possibly because of this easy interchange throughout. Everything prior to the final five minutes is so natural, unfolding a rich concept unhurriedly, that when all is wrapped up so suddenly it jars. This could have been the point, and it is a small criticism that is testament to the thrall of what comes before.
Rose Beale, Angela Liu and Ami Jones, playing Faith, Pain and Rape respectively, were subtly impressive. Beale’s serenely pre-Raphaelite Faith inspired exactly the right combination of infuriation and appeal, like the Archbishop of Canterbury’s beard. Jones’ Rape was unsettlingly insistent, managing to exert a physical force over herself and the others with nothing more than a quiet leitmotif of collarbone fondling. Liu was unique in having a strongly-defined character arc; Pain slowly sapping into ennui. She did well with this, and continued to act at points the average Cambridge actor would sink into whining.
Mirror deserves to be seen. Even if no one else goes, however, you will be treated to an excitingly intimate performance that asserts nothing but provokes an awful lot.