by Frank McGuinness.

Liverpool Playhouse (Studio) Williamson Square L1 1EL To 21 July 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm except 3 July 5.30pm Mat 28 June, 12 July 1.30pm, 30 June, 7, 21 July 2pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.

TICKETS: 0151 709 4776.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 June.

Perceptive play matched by a fine performance.
Some people say that if Shakespeare were alive today he would be scripting soap-operas. Far more likely he’d be delving into Lady Macbeth with some of the perspective Frank McGuinness gives to the bereaved Sal.

That’s not to say McGuinness’ one character play has any direct link with the Scottish queen. But she’s Shakespeare’s most deeply-felt dark lady, who expresses stark yet contrasting emotions as she’s glimpsed on a journey to self-destruction. And we are never told how many children she had.

Sal’s story starts with the death of her daughter Mary, named after her mother (family matters here), shot in accidental cross-fire by one of three brothers. It wasn’t even an organised terrorist shooting, but something almost casual. And about such deaths, in certain places, everything is known but nothing can be proved.

As the story winds through inevitable procedures – identifying the body, a press conference, and mundane events – Sal’s intensity leads to a story of revenge and its consequences. It’s a story implying a scale and achieving an intensity to match Shakespeare or the Greek tragedians – and it’s possibly McGuinness’s finest work.

Lia Williams is a first-rate actor, and clearly a fine director too. So fine there seems at first no direction involved in Leanne Best’s performance. And she, the performer probably seen more than any other in recent years at the Everyman (particularly) and Playhouse, is superb – not in technical display, but in control, in characterisation, incorporating the compulsive striking of matches, an action acquiring increasing, and increasingly serious, significance.

In her stripped-back home, isolated on an island of West Kerry, she tries eventually to reach out to the audience as her imagined auditors. With minimal furnishings, mainly an unmade bed, the place becomes the prison of her passionate, embittered recollections, till the door seeing through to light outside is shut, and Charlie Lucas’s lighting takes on a tinge suggesting her own fate when the last of the matches is struck.

Moving seamlessly as Sal’s mind crosses different recollections and emotions up to the final disintegration of language and mind, Best’s performance gives this play a terrific premiere.

Sal: Leanne Best.
Recorded voices: Esme Herbert, Melanie Pappenheim.

Director: Lia Williams.
Designer: Colin Richmond.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Sound/Composer: Giles Perring.

2012-06-22 12:44:04

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