PEELING To 16 April.


by Kaite O’Reilly.

Forest Forge Theatre Company tour to 16 April 2011.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
Review Mark Courtice 4 April at Berry Theatre Hedge End.

Ambitious choice means a satisfying night and an incomprehensible Arts Council decision.
Kaite O’Reilly’s play, originally commissioned by disabled-led Graeae Theatre Company, is an ambitious reflection on war and motherhood mixed with gender politics. Rural touring company Forest Forge, in taking it to the arts centres and village halls of Hampshire and Wiltshire, demonstrate the sort of courage and enterprise that make the recent Arts Council decision to cut their grant seem more than usually incomprehensible.

Alpha, Beaty and Coral are the Chorus for a contemporary production of The Trojan Women. Parked upstage they make occasional appearances in Euripides’ play, here seen as a post apocalyptic meditation on death and the strength of women in the face of disaster. When the trio is not on, they’re discussing life, art and their own brushes with motherhood.

The most interesting thing about these characters is not their difference but their universality. Seizing on the themes of the ‘main stage’ play, O’Reilly’s piece is about big things, despite the fact the protagonists are in the wings.

Kirstie Davis’ very good production is committed and pacy. Amidst backstage clutter, David Haworth’s design places the actors like cake decorations on huge metal-framed crinolines which sometimes seem like cages, sometimes ladders. The play is written to have the text and stage directions projected as surtitles and the actors describe what they are doing. This of course makes the work accessible to those who don’t see or hear, but has an odd and often surprisingly funny effect, sometimes distancing and sometimes underscoring the action.

The performances are excellent; all three actors are unafraid to plunge into emotion, and tackle the big themes head on. Ali Briggs creates a striking sequence as she tells a horrific story with very expressive signing, and Nicola Miles-Wildin is an attractive Everywoman type. Kiruna Stamell makes Beaty complex and interesting, acerbic and bitchy as well as genuinely moving.

Underpinned by Rebecca Aplin’s effective score, with a genuine ensemble feel, this is an emotionally satisfying, cleverly produced 70 minutes with characters who have something to say to all of us.

Alpha Ali Briggs.
Beaty Kiruna Stamell.
Coral Nicola Miles-Wildin.

Director: Kirstie Davis.
Designer; David Haworth.
Lighting: Dom Phillips.
Composer/Musical Director: Rebecca Applin.

2011-04-07 13:58:04

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