out of the dark

Theatre review: Out Of The Dark, Rose Theatre, Kingston

Jenny Booth reviews this engaging and original piece

Debut dramatist Suzy Gill has created an immersive piece of theatre in the truest sense of the words with her lyrical verse play Out Of The Dark.

Without resorting to any of immersive theatre’s trendy tricks, this stunning piece uses language alone to gently grip each audience member’s heart and compress it with pity and fear until they are almost unable to look away. At times the poetry was so rich and allusive it was like listening to Under Milk Wood.

The action follows a young couple referred to as He and She – Gill doesn’t even name them – but it is their baby, Lily, who is the central character. Lily may not be physically present but she is constantly centre stage in her parents’ thoughts. Aged six months Lily starts to have mysterious seizures, and it emerges that her brain is failing to develop normally. He and She are plunged into a dark maze of panic, guilt and separate coping behaviours that threaten to tear them apart.

He, superbly acted by Alex Stedman, is a sunnier character who tries to remain accepting but runs every night until his feet are bloody. She, brilliantly performed by Lisa Zahra, can only cope with her stifling fears by trying to control everything. Wrapping her cardigan ever tighter around her, with tragic eyes and a bitter twist to her lips, Zahra is continually girding for the worst – and so is the audience.

The director Fay Lomas, recipient of the Sir Peter Hall Emerging Artist Fellowship, wisely allows the rhythms of the verse to dictate the pace, using sensitive choreography to accentuate moments of drama.

The intimate setting of the Rose Theatre Studio adds to the intensity, with the audience on three sides of the acting area. Miriam Nabarro’s set is artfully sparse – just a white paper backdrop that curves under the actors’ feet, plus nine misshapen silver planets above their heads – so attention is focused relentlessly on the actors. The outstanding soundtrack by young composer Oliver Vibrans provides the moodscape.

It is a relief that out of the nigh unbearable tension comes an ending that affirms that Lily’s world holds mystery and imagination and beauty as well as darkness. Well done to the Rose for staging this rewarding drama. It’s a pity it didn’t have a longer run.

  • Out Of The Dark runs at the Rose Theatre Studio until Sat 2 Nov