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The Theatreguide.London Review

Image Of An Unknown Young Woman
Gate Theatre   Summer 2015

The inescapable and pervasive chaos of a popular uprising and civil war is the subject of Elinor Cook's new play.

Paradoxically, depicting chaos onstage requires total structure and control, and a particular strength of Christopher Haydon's production at the Gate is the very tight direction, almost to the point of choreography, that successfully allows the actors to create through order the impression of disorder. 

In an unnamed repressive country an amateur photographer captures the moment an innocent young woman is shot by police. The uploaded video goes viral, and The Girl In The Yellow Dress becomes the focus of an upsurge in both peaceful popular demonstrations and terrorist rebel action. 

The regime declares the video a fake and hunts down the photographer and his girlfriend to torture them into recanting. An overloaded hospital system can't cope with the casualties of mob actions, police responses and rebel bombings. 

A young woman wanders the streets begging anyone to interrupt their agendas to help her find her missing mother. Far off in Britain, a rich woman is lured into funding the terrorists with the assurance that she's supporting humanitarian work with war orphans. And of course the regime becomes even more violent and repressive. 

Playing on a narrow runway with the audience on two sides, Christopher Haydon's actors keep the action moving rapidly to the point of almost spinning out of control, while still holding everything clear and focused even as the action jumps among the several plot strands in a series of brief scenes. 

The entire cast of eight, some doubling and tripling roles, are excellent, and if I select for special mention Eileen Walsh as the girl looking for her mother and Susan Brown as the English woman, it is because the script gives them more opportunity to develop their characters. 

The only criticism worth making is that at 90 minutes without interval the play feels a little longer than it need be, but even that is a testament to the playwright's and director's efficiency and intensity, with many scenes making their points so well and quickly that they seem to linger on unnecessarily.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Image Of An Unknown Young Woman - Gate Theatre 2015

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