Gate Theatre Autumn 2017
A chilling and convincing portrait of encroaching madness, Magali Mougel's short drama is all the more impressive for not relying on linear naturalism. Rather, it evokes a woman's mental breakdown through a blend of narration, repetition and the inventive and almost musical use of language.
Suzy meets Hans at work and they quickly become a couple. She loses her job and looks for another, but he wants a stay-at-home wife, and while she does not want children, he insists.
After three children in as many years, Suzy has a monumental post-partum depression along with the feeling of isolation from the outside world, but neither Hans nor her own mother offer any sympathy and she sinks into near-catatonic madness.
Playwright Mougel tells the story largely through a pair of narrators who do not merely report neutrally but impose their unsympathetic judgements on Suzy and occasionally interfere with the story to her disadvantage.
One narrator doubles as Suzy's mother and a prospective employer, while in a particularly tense scene the other repeatedly interrupts Suzy when she is trying to explain herself.
Meanwhile the playwright (here translated by Chris Campbell in an appropriately formal English) uses language musically. Lines of dialogue and sometimes extended speeches are heard more than once, developing the resonances of fugal themes and variations.
When one character repeats him-or-herself we sense unresolved obsession; when a second character picks up another's speech it can take on new meanings; and if the repetition varies from or goes on beyond the original it can take a thought into a new direction.
In this way the audience is drawn into the rhythms and dead ends of Suzy's thoughts, to sense from within her mental breakdown.
Director Jean-Pierre Baro deserves much credit for understanding that the play exists as much in the How of its telling as in the What, and for guiding his cast – Caoilfhionn Dunne as Suzy, Jonah Russell and Hans and Kate Duchene and Theo Solomon as the chorus – to subtle and powerful performances that bring out all the play's dark power.
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