Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
Bree Peters and Miriama McDowell are our two players, together demonstrating total command of the space. The daunting run-time of a 110 minute show in a town of 55-minuters has soon flown by having watched such a powerful duo. Peters and McDowell play Heather and Carla respectively, friends from intermediate/high school twenty years ago. In their time apart Heather has done well for themselves while Carla has been living a much harder life. The shifting current of these characters has been expertly given life by Peters and McDowell, bringing insight and wisdom into their performance choices on stage and an electricity to their partnership.
The design of the show is powerful and obviously a key part of bringing this piece to life. Production designer Meg Rollandi, lighting designer Jane Hakaraia, composer Emi Pogoni with Anita Clark’s violin and Scott Maynards double bass constitute a team that have developed a dark, sinister environment visually and auditorily. The stage begins as a park bench in front of a layer of plastic curtains. When that slides away (in the most satisfying way) it reveals the rest of the set: Heather’s home, adorned with tall shelves with glass cases of pinned insects. A thrumming soundscape creeps up on us, compounding on the stress of the story, and deftly heightens the tension. Pesky insect noises chirp from different places in the ceiling above us, becoming more prominent during certain lines between Peters and McDowell, building tension. The show is eerie and all around us.
The themes of the piece are constantly intertwined. Peter’s Heather comes from a place of struggling with mental health after sexual assault as a teenager, McDowell’s Carla carries the scars of intergenerational trauma, and as they play against each other there is plenty to pick up about societal inequalities, priviledge, and harmful cultural stereotypes. The Wasp sees through a grey lens with both characters trying to make the best of their situation after surviving their experiences, and neither coming out clean.
Lloyd Malcolm’s script is vicious and continuously peels off new layers of a tantalising scenario. Lives are on the line, and every passing minute these lives change, the stakes growing ever higher, the depravity of the characters constantly being trumped. This play is about trauma, it’s about survival, it’s about the exponential growth of revenge and anger. The gasps from the audience are constant. I once heard that great writing was both unexpected yet inevitable and this show is adorned with dialogue that encompass both. Once again I want to acknowledge the depth of skill called upon from Peters and McDowell to give such sustained energy to the lines for all 110 minutes. Not only do they deliver the lines ferociously, it’s their craft that makes every comedic beat land. It is a funny play, darkly funny, and constantly has us laughing even in the most unexpected of places without ever sacrificing the tension in the room.
The Wasp is a triumph and is on until the 29th of October at Circa Theatre, find more info here. Be aware that there is a lock-out in place for this show.