by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig.
Trafalgar Studio (Studio 2) To 2 April 2011.
Runs: 1hr 10min No interval.
Review: Alec Mullion 25 March.
We are introduced to Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s new play through the consistently impressive, but never intrusive, underscore of Tom Mills and Steve Mayo; aeroplanes flying overhead; prison chamber echoes; buzzing electronic locks. The stage, designed by takis: a white, wipe-clean box lit with fluorescent strip-lighting, enclosed on all four sides by the audience, is like a boxing ring.
We are 15 years in the past. Alice (Penny Layden) is a US soldier and interrogator stationed at Guantanamo Bay detention facility. She must do whatever it takes to get to the US’s version of the truth. To help the mental strain of Alice’s job, the army prescribes her medication, which she takes regularly. Through well-paced and intensely engaging monologues we see her side of the interrogation process.
In the present day, Alice has a home, a husband, Lucas (Christian Bradley), a 14-year-old daughter, Rhiannon (Greer Dale-Foulkes) and a flower shop. But life is far from coming up roses. Lucas is still in the shadows of a one-time heroin addiction and Rhiannon has an unhealthy relationship with the mortality of animals. As for Alice, those pills helped her forget mostly everything but she’s living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
While the story is somewhat contrived, the writing and the characters are strong. Stephen Atkinson’s focused direction ensures that the pace is maintained, the pauses in the text are earned and we are constantly climbing a ladder of intensity.
Fine performances from Penny Layden and, in particular, Greer Dale-Foulkes who uses the small stage space with great physical intelligence, her performance is extraordinarily sincere and real.
As an ensemble of writer, director, actors, costume and sound designers, on this evidence, High Tide is a tightly-run, ambitious ship. This is shown during one moment of overlapping scenes performed by each actor that turned my stomach, raised the hairs on my whole body and made me want to get up from my seat and do something. That is powerful.
Lidless won the Yale Drama Series Award for Play-writing in 2009 and an Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award in 2010. Both rightly deserved.
Riva/Zakiyah: Nathalie Armin.
Lucas: Christian Bradley.
Bashir: Antony Bunsee.
Alice: Penny Layden.
Rhiannon: Greer Dale-Foulkes.
Director: Steven Atkinson.
Lighting: Matt Prentice.
Sound: Steve Mayo.
Music: Tom Mills.
Voice: John Tucker.