Monday, 28 April 2014

Theatre review: The Believers

Cynical, spiky and driven to the end of their tethers by their difficult child Grace, if Joff (Christopher Colquhoun) and Marianne (Eileen Walsh) had any belief in god it would be pushed to the limit by their home getting flooded. In this hour of need they're taken in for the night by the neighbours they barely know: Ollie (Richard Mylan) and Maud (Penny Layden) are religious and new age-ey, and to complete the contrast their own daughter Joyous seems to be practically perfect in every way. Although they're polite because of their circumstances, the two couples' differences, especially with regard to faith, make for an instant dislike. But a few drinks and joints later Joff and Marianne allow Maud and Ollie to perform a simple blessing over Grace that they believe will calm her down. It does, but the effect on both families ends up being a lot more drastic than expected.

Bryony Lavery's The Believers is a sometimes very dark meditation on belief, and suggests that both the utter lack of faith of one couple, and the indiscriminate openness of the other, are potentially dangerous.

But it's also a Frantic Assembly show, which means Scott Graham has hung Lavery's sparse text on a production typified by bold physical theatre. Jon Bausor's set is made up of sharp angles, with bright fluorescent lights surrounding ominous dark spaces, and in these Graham has his actors, with the aid of - sometimes cunningly hidden - wires, increasingly defy gravity as their discussions tend more towards the esoteric, or their emotional states become more fraught.

Between unsettling subject matter, strong performances and eye-popping staging, The Believers is a powerful and sometimes disturbing piece, although with plenty of moments that lighten the tension. Andy Purves' lighting and Carolyn Downing's eerie, jarring sound design contribute to an unsettling effect that sometimes crosses over into horror. Although whether the horror should be considered supernatural or psychological, Lavery leaves to the audience to decide.

The Believers by Bryony Lavery is booking until the 24th of May at the Tricycle Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

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