Sink

Mon 3rd – Fri 7th November 2014

reviews

Ed Grimble

at 23:09 on 3rd Nov 2014

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The premise behind ‘Sink’ is by no means simple. Take a deeply emotional play about growing up in a dysfunctional family unit, combine it with the challenges of staging a one man show, and a tiny theatre space with a thrust stage, and you have the foundations for this sterling piece of theatre.

We enter the Wardrobe Theatre to a set that is sparsely dressed out as a domestic bathroom: sink, toiletries, and a few discarded pieces of clothing. An ominous dripping punctuates the deep silence; functioning not only as simple background noise, but as a kind of perceptibly unsettling, auditory Chinese water torture. Even before the play-proper has begun the theme of domestic life is being subtly linked to those of imprisonment and mental anguish. The physically small stage and auditorium space both excellently reflect the play’s setting, inside Julia’s bathroom, but also serve exacerbate the feelings of claustrophobia and imprisonment that underpin the play.

The play involves Julia’s awkward and tentative recitation of, suggested by her references to what ‘mum would have liked’ and the crumpled black dress and matching shoes on the floor, her mother’s eulogy. During the reading, the audience is shown episodes from Julia’s childhood as she recalls the memories of her and her mother, which grow increasingly dark. It is in these flashbacks that Olivia Emden (Julia) shows her true acting class. Playing both her unpredictable, emotionally unstable and often overbearing Irish mother and the young Julia, Emden simultaneously creates two incredibly real and stimulating characters. Emden’s talent is exacerbated given that there are no other cast members, and that Emden never leaves the stage. She performs with vigour, emotion, and consistency across the entire play.

It is Julia’s spiral into near hysteric recollection of her childhood that makes the play such harrowing viewing. The nature of how we choose to remember events, and repress others, is a key theme in the play. As Julia delves deeper and deeper into her past, the veneer of memory is slowly and painfully peeled away, and the truth of her early life is revealed in all its cruelty. The mother that she idolised is severely unstable, wracked by her own regrets and is protective to the point of domestic incarceration over her only daughter. Indeed, this darkening of the play is reflected in Jack Drewry’s original music. The same motif precedes the episodes of recollection, but it becomes more and more dissonant, warped and distorted as the nature of Julia’s memories become more and more ominous. Technically, the play is almost faultless. However, in a space so intimate as the Wardrobe, and a play so delicate as ‘Sink’; even those sound hitches that would be almost unnoticeable in a larger show can be, unfortunately, momentarily distracting.

As well as memory the play also explores, through the scenes between Julia and her mother, the conflict that arises when individual reluctance is pitted against the wavering dedication that a child has to their parents. This portrayal of the relationship between mother and daughter is perhaps the most poignant of the whole play. The script is truly excellent, falling only marginally short of delivering the true killer blow that as an audience member we feel is coming. The climactic flashback is dramatic, aggressive, but the crescendo that it brings is not quite powerful enough to leave us truly shaken.

As a piece of theatre ‘Sink’, then, does anything but! Incredible acting talent, coupled with a near flawless script and sterling technical work, produces a play that is emotionally harrowing and arresting from start to finish. It is a tremendous success.

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