Monday, November 28

The You Play Volume Two: The Haunted Woman – 45North

An unsettling, psychological thriller with genuine tension and creepy theme from 45North and Ellie Keel Productions. Directed by Jessica Lazar.

This tense, one-woman drama is performed by Olivia Williams and written by Rafaella Marcus. Appropriate for these times of closed theatres, it is an audio project from Written on the Waves and follows Marcus’ debut The You Play. The concept of the project is to put the listener at the centre of the world. It is available through SoundCloud on a donate what you consider appropriate basis.

The drama begins with a woman recording a message on a Dictaphone which she hopes will be found subsequently. She tells the listener that time is running out and that he should follow a bizarre set of instructions which she gives during the course of the message. She is distressed and exasperated and tells the listener to make a shadow form from whatever pieces of paper, sticky tape and wood that can be found.

As she delivers these staged instructions, the troubled woman recounts the history of her relationship with the man to whom she is leaving this message. They begin as excited young lovers following his tentative career as a band member, moving in together, marriage and being on the brink of fame before the inevitable rock and roll style band splitting.

The couple take mundane jobs with the woman working in a school where she comes across a visiting shadow puppets group. From this encounter she is inspired by their craft and our anxious protagonist attends classes and hones her skills in shadow puppetry. We can see a sinister future emerging here, particularly when she talks about one notably hideous creation of hers which grows in presence.

During this period, the relationship is deteriorating with him being almost totally silent and her moving into the spare room which also becomes her studio for making the creepy shadow puppets.

Things look brighter for a short period when he has a chance of a musical ‘come back’ but the event is disastrous and results in recrimination and further disharmony.

The woman finally banishes her husband believing him to be the shadow and impediment to the light in her life. She lives alone for a time with the house permanently bathed in light, however, the shadow is still there.

The tale is genuinely disturbing and creepy. The production team is brave enough to leave long silences and have Williams whispering, sometimes inaudibly which together with the array of weird noises (scraping, knocking, electronic tones) creates an eerie and unnerving atmosphere.

Williams’ performance is excellent as she maintains pace and tension whilst keeping the listener confused as to whether these events are really happening or are the result of her stressed imagination.

The drama is described as a ghost story about what to do when opportunities die – and something with a long shadow creeps into their place. Is the dead opportunity his musical career or their relationship? This is a serious and thoughtful drama which is well produced and performed, however, the plot would benefit from purpose and conclusion.

You can listen to this audio drama at www.forty-fivenorth.com/the-you-play-volume-two-the-haunted-woman

45North is a London-based touring theatre group championing work by female-identifying and non-binary artist.

Reviewer: Bob Towers

Reviewed: 16th December 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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