Review; Fix, Pleasance Theatre, Islington
PUBLISHED: 11:00 20 January 2020
Julie Tsung’s intriguing set up playing on false memory and the supernatural is undermined by poor structure, inadequate design and a deflated ending
A huge, ancient tree dominates this unusual and interesting new play.
It opens and closes the performance and overshadows the action throughout.
It lives - if it exists at all - in the middle of the woods where Kevin played as a child and which he knew like the back of his hand.
But he does not recognise the tumbledown house where he calls, many years later, to repair the washing machine.
Mikey Antony-How is convincing as the skilled and confident repairman who is plunged into a situation he can't understand or control.
He is both intrigued and repelled by the old woman - or is she young? who lives there.
Is she eccentric or crazy? Evil or benevolent? Does she have mysterious supernatural powers? Tina Ching, as Li Na, handles this impossible part magnificently.
She is the tree and the tree is her: indestructible and incomprehensible.
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If she is sometimes static and repetitive, the fault lies in the writing not the performance.
The two characters are trapped in a nightmare of true and false memory, of half-forgotten childhood and deep-buried guilt, all intertwined with traditional myths and legends from a confusion of cultures.
Perhaps they exist only in Kevin's tortured soul.
From the outset, there is an atmosphere of brooding menace. The house grows darker, cracks in the walls widen and lengthen, paintings change colour and shape. Mysterious noises come from all sides. Outside, a storm rages.
Written by Julie Tsung, the dialogue is appropriately puzzling and menacing, with a logic of its own.
Such a script cries out for inventive technical backup, but Rachel Wingate's set hardly supplies this. Ali Hunter's lighting could be more than just misty and dark. And above all, the sound effects need to be terrifying and various.
The powerful, indestructible tree, the encroaching forest, the crumbling house and the raging storm, are troublingly familiar to contemporary audiences.
How can these two people escape? It seems they cannot. Having set up an intriguing premise, instead of an ending, the play merely deflates.
Fix runs at The Pleasance until February 1.