A masterful play full of drama, tension, and rifts
Exploring heavy emotions rooted in deep-seated family issues, Unearthed manages to balance real-life drama with an air of the supernatural. With stand-out performances from Tel Chiuri and Flossie Adrian as Charlie and Sam, along with precise direction from Melania Hamilton, be prepared for an evening of shock, distress, and tears. This gripping drama is not one to miss.
Gregory Miller‘s riveting story follows two estranged siblings, Charlie and Sam, forced back together following the death of their father. Whilst this family circumstance might not seem too unusual, this tale is far from ordinary. The difficult dynamic between Charlie and Sam is sustained excellently throughout, whilst Charlie’s nervous disposition becomes increasingly desperate and alarming. The script flowed seamlessly from one part to the next, and the use of lighting and monologue helped to reveal the character’s true emotions.
From its very opening scene, Unearthed set the tone of what was to come. Beginning with a soft, yet slightly ominous piano tune played by Theo Horch, along with a spotlight on Flossie Adrian as Sam, the opening monologue certainly made for a powerful start to the performance. As soon as Tel Chiuri (as Charlie) walked on stage, the tension and awkwardness between the two estranged siblings was sharp, and the characters’ contrasting personalities were portrayed brilliantly with moments of silence and tension.
The performance was assisted skilfully with a formidable technical effort of the light and sound team. The use of music and lighting was executed brilliantly to create a sense of apprehension throughout. Sound and lighting director Ruweena Perera did not miss a beat when it came to coupling Chiuri and Adrian’s intense emotional monologues with cold spotlights, along with pulsating coloured lights to help accentuate Chiuri’s increasingly anxious state of mind. For me, one of the standout aspects of the play had to be pianist, Theo Horch, who, in repeatedly playing a similar tune throughout the play at different moments, created a nervous, and slightly baleful atmosphere that seemed to simmer insidiously as the play progressed. The onset of whistling and ticking sounds intensified as Chirui’s monologues became more and more desperate, which truly heightened the sense of overall paranoia and tension.
The set itself, designed by Lottie Wood, felt very dynamic and thought out. The setting was constantly being played with – whether that be through Chiuri’s manic, drunken scattering of dirt, or the destruction of the overall set as chairs, shelves, and books were pushed over in a frenzied manner.
Of course, the staging and direction were brought to life through the phenomenal performances of Chiuri and Adrian as Charlie and Sam. Adrian’s stellar performance was intensely realistic, and the subtleties of emotion were portrayed excellently; at times the audience was unsure whether they might shout, laugh, or cry. Adrian’s performance did not falter throughout the play, and the contrast between their emotionally charged monologues, and their restrained conversations with Chiuri was exceptional.
Chiuri’s equally masterful portrayal of Charlie was again authentic and convincing and had the audience on the edges of their seats as she became increasingly paranoid and desperate. Chiuri’s lighthearted and flippant temperament at the beginning of the performance evolved and escalated to one of anger, frustration, and ultimately despair towards the end of the play. Such a poignant character evolution was displayed brilliantly not just through Chiuri’s tone of voice, but through her physical demeanour which started off relaxed, and ended up in fits of distress and torment as she fell repeatedly to her knees in tears.
It was a pleasure to watch Chiuri and Adrian’s dynamic evolve and change over the course of the play, even whilst the themes cutting across it were heavy and dark. The way the sibling’s dynamic changed from one of unspoken words and silences, to one of outright anger, agony, and despair was executed brilliantly. Towards the end, the crescendo of Charlie’s despair was characterised brilliantly, and the use of light which pulsated and changed colour added to her increased frenzy and hopelessness. The end of the play was brought together as the siblings shared a moment of comfort with one another, despite their seven years apart. The two ended up sitting beside one another, with Charlie resting on Sam’s shoulder as they seemed to realise they only had each other in the dark aftermath following their father’s death.
Overall, Unearthed was a captivating play, revealing unspoken secrets within a family dynamic fuelled by alcoholism and depression. The masterful performances of Adrian and Chiuri were supported by superb technical use of lighting and sound, and the repeated use of the piano created a cyclical undercurrent of agitation and uncertainty. Whilst the use of costume was perhaps a little stagnant in comparison to the rest of the production, all in all, it is hard to find many faults in what was a thrilling and captivating watch.
Unearthed is showing from 24th – 27th May at the Corpus Playroom at 9.30pm. Book your tickets here.
Featured image credits: Mary O’Shaughnessy