This is one of those evenings which can only happen in the theatre – baffling, infuriating but at times deeply moving and disturbing as what seems at first straightforward enough, although the superb set suggest rather more is expected of it than a straighforward story, turns into a rampage through time as we follow the fate of a mysterious figure known only as The Woman. It could all be nonsense but is held together by Vicky Featherstone’s sure direction, that amazing set and a superb performance from Ria Zmitrowicz as the Woman, stoic, forever facing up to horrors through the centuries and living for yet another day.
It is 1863. Mrs Lyall (Rakie Ayola) a spiritualist, is visiting a lunatic asylum to meet a woman who has appeared there apparently with no knowledge of her past. She sees the Woman, she has no name and apparently no past, as a channel to the other world but gets more than she bargained for after she takes her home and as their relationship deepens. At times it is hard to know just what is going on and the word bonkers does come to mind, but as the Woman’s journeys through time are revealed, her encounters with a mysterious knight (Tadhg Murphy) and an assortment of men, some friendly starting with Mrs Lyall’s son Mason (Fisayo Akinade), you end up sitting back and going for what is a rollercoaster of a ride. Thrilling, possibly pointless, except that the thrill is part of the experience, it is pure theatre. Mrs Lyall is determined to go on a journey with this new companion, the new portal to the other world she believes in, Mason is reluctant to say the least, and the Woman just lets it all happen.
A programme note or two would have been useful and there are moments one longs for the days when plays had a French window or two on stage and one knew where one was, although one doubts they ever appeared on this stage, but the cast, even if they too are as baffled as the audience, carry the evening as they conjure up the people the Woman meets on her endless journey through time and the cavernous set by Merle Hensel shifts itself into new configurations. It is a play to go to even if you leave shaking your head in disbelief at what you have seen – it is least it not yet another juke box musical biography of sorts and for that these days one has to be thankful. It could be rubbish to some but I don’t think it actually is.
Rakie Ayola:Mrs Lyall.
Ria Zmitrowicz. The Woman.
All other characters played by the performers playing Mrs Lyall, Mason and Haster.
Director: Vicky Featherstone.
Designer: Merle Hensel.
Lighting Designer: Jessica Hung Han Yun.
Composer & Sound Designer: Nick Powell.
Video Designer: Tal Rosner.
Movement Director: Malik Nashad Sharpe.
Fight Director: Bret Yount.
Associate Costume Designer: Helen Lovett Johnson.
Production Photographs: Johan Persson.