Directed by Moyra Brookes
It was a delight to be back at the Nomad theatre again. Despite very strict Covid rules being adhered to, there was a buzz of excitement around the theatre at the joy of being back again. It is a fabulous facility and The Nomads make full use of it.
This was a brave choice of play. A two-hander sustained for an hour without a break is a tough undertaking but Nikky Kirkup (Anya) and Vykki Mash (Sonia) took it in their stride. They created the Chekhovian atmosphere with a possible hint of Genet, with minimum fuss and complete success.
Anya’s opening moments set the scene and her scream on seeing the coffin in her sparsely furnished room was convincing beyond words! It gave her the opportunity to reveal her relationship with vodka within minutes.
We also quickly learned that she had a limp and her rather tired, once-glamorous dress underlined the fact that she had fallen on difficult times. The entrance of her sister Sonia dressed as housemaid established in our minds a firm, friendly relationship between the two.
The initial dialogue was a little stiff and the picking up of cues could have been a little more slick, giving pace to the opening moments. The scene soon settled down, however, and we became engaged in the story. We got to know the characters.
It appeared that a coffin had also appeared in Sonia’s room. The two women freshly arrived from a seance which, it seems, both were in the habit of attending. The growing hysteria in Anya had earlier revealed her fear of death and her belief that the coffin was an omen.
The coffin was the focus of their early dialogue and finally led, with the help of much vodka, to the revelation of the terrible secrets that each had kept from the other. One was a serial murderer and the other a procurer. When the reason for the appearance of the coffin was discovered, one couldn’t help wondering whether the relationship would ever be the same!
Nikky created a very credible character in Anya and showed total confidence using the acting area. She was fluent, her voice well projected and she had a good range and believable facial expressions. She did wonderfully well is sustaining a considerable limp.
Though we saw her very close relationship with vodka, she showed almost superhuman ability not to show that she must have been getting a little more tipsy as the play went on. Playing “drunk” is notoriously difficult, but I think we needed just a little attempt here. Surely, it was the vodka that led her to reveal her terrible secret.
Vikki too created a character (Sonia) in which we could believe and this became more convincing as the play progressed. There were a few moments when the voice dropped a bit too far and there was a little over gesturing which didn’t always seem to arise for the lines of the situation. This was, however, also a successful and well-sustained characterization. As time went on, the ensemble playing between the two became more and more impressive.
The set was minimal and reflected the situation in which the two women found themselves. The lighting was suitably dingey and supported the atmosphere of a situation of “reduced circumstances.”
I liked the choice of music, but it was a bit too loud at some points and I would have liked to have heard the difference when the door opened and closed. A tiny, nit-picking comment, I know, but little details like this matter.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable performance. We were drawn into the emotional awfulness of the revelations the women made to one another. The touches of black humour were always a welcome diversion. They were well pointed and enhanced our enjoyment of the play. And what a relief when we discovered the real reason why the coffins were there! More smile and a little wry laughter.
The director is to be congratulated on a very interesting and brave choice of piece. It was very effectively executed and was clearly enjoyed by all the audience. What a tragedy there were so few of us.
Review by “Polly”