My first assignment for Ginger Wig and Strolling Man, is Abigail, the play that closes the inaugural season of the newest off-West End theatre in town. The 110-seater studio opened in October, and Abigail is the world premiere of Irish writer Fiona Doyle’s new play, directed by Joshua McTaggart.
The play is a two-hander that centres on the relationship between one man (played by Mark Rose) and one woman (Tia Bannon). Their names are not disclosed although we may guess at the woman’s from her fit of pique at his failure to remember her name from their first meeting. The scenes are quick-fire, moving between the past and present. From the outset it is clear that this is no smooth ride love affair. Her emotions and actions are changeable and volatile. We witness one loving moment, which swiftly turns into a vicious statement and ultimately becomes something physical.
I found Bannon chillingly and believably good and, in particular, the way she changed her expression and action in a fraction of a second. The backstory is not explicitly told. In fact I am still not sure exactly what happened, and why, and this is obviously the intention of the writer. What definitely comes across is a psychotic edge to the woman, and the likelihood that this stems from an earlier trauma.
Max Dorey’s set is made up of what looks like packing cases, which are used intermittently to store props and the jacket and coat which help to denote the different time periods. The cleverest use of one of these cases starts as an entrance resembling a doorway and then becomes a shower, seemingly with running water. into which the man steps.
Andy Josephs’ sound design uses music well. For a start, the man is wearing a Nirvana t-shirt placing him in a certain age band and certainly quite a bit older than her. Then, the snippets in the background are of Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’. We hear the refrain, ‘you’re gonna be the one that saves me’ which, as we find out in the last scene, sums up the key theme in the play. Loving someone should not really be about saving someone, should it?
Abigail is an absorbing hour’s watch and the parts are played well by the two actors. However there is something missing. It is either from the fact that so much is left untold or it is because the staging on three sides meant simply that I just missed something. Needless to say, it is great to see new writing in a new space, and it is definitely worth looking out for the next season at the Bunker Theatre.
By Hatty Uwanogho