by Colleen Murphy.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 16 February 2015.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 January.
5-0 to the Finborough with protean Canadian playwright.
Thanks again to Neil McPherson’s Finborough for championing Canadian playwright Colleen Murphy. Ignored elsewhere throughout Britain, this is her fifth play here. Each is serious, riveting and deeply involving.
Murphy’s work is refreshingly unpredictable. Themes and story develop organically, while each play carves-out its own style and manner. She is a keen observer, a shrewd and independent-minded analyst. And a terrific writer, with unshowy. economical dialogue, and tightly-structured action.
Pig Girl shows she keeps up with the news, too. The play grew from reports of a Canadian pig-farmer eventually identified as a serial killer. Building tension, never sensationalising, or exploiting the suffering of the victim she shows – a bright student sunk into drug-addiction and lured to the farm by promises of new pharmaceuticals – Murphy gives depth to each character.
She deserves a sensitive, perceptive director. And has one in Helen Donnelly, helped by Nic Farman’s lighting, its patches of brightness in the day-world of the (half-)Sister and policeman, initially bored then increasingly guilty at his lackadaisical response to search requests and expert theories, bordering a nocturnal half-dark for captive and killer.
Here, Zoe Hammond’s set uses farmyard mess and machinery to create an atmosphere of secrecy and threat in a small space (the production plays on the narrow space allowed by the Finborough’s other current show). Whether Olivia Darnley was deliberately half-avoiding the spotlight, or whether that was a matter for adjustment after this Preview performance, it intensified the sense of unease, underscoring Darnley’s urgency.
Donnelly also orchestrates Fred Riding’s sound-score, key to the play’s development of interior feeling as Murphy skilfully combines an edge-of-seat thriller element with a voyage into characters’ psychology, in part exposed through sounds conjured in troubled minds. Action and character analysis usually clash. Not here, as Murphy develops a double sense of time, the intense farm scenes contrasting the law’s delays in taking anything approaching action.
The male actors do well enough. But the play’s heart lies with the sisters and, contrasting Darnley’s urgency, Kirsten Foster’s determined prisoner, holding to her identity by defiance and insistence, is an unpitying, selfless performance in a remarkable evening.
Sister: Olivia Darnley.
Dying Woman: Kirsten Foster.
Killer: Damien Lyne.
Police Officer: Joseph Rye.
Director: Helen Donnelly.
Designer/Costume: Zoe Hammond.
Lighting: Nic Farman.
Sound: Fred Riding.