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We are in a space which could be domestic, with ragged wallpaper and a blank window or it could be a corner of an inner city estate or a park, littered and covered in graffiti. Are those bars or razor wire or shop fittings with clothes hanging from them? And those grubby cubes: what are they?
Ruth Darling’s clever set design laid out clues and metaphors for Comar’s production of Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley, a two-hour one-woman show.
Flora Thomasson, the accomplished 17-year-old actor poised between Youth Theatre and the professional industry, occupied and explored the impressive set as she told the story of Andrea’s quest for family, for love, for a sense of belonging.
By turn she showed us both child and adult; someone frightened and frightening; vulnerable and aggressive. What was fantasy and what was reality? Were those her dreams or her nightmares?
Thomasson’s engaging energy and impressive emotional range kept her audience spellbound. We held our breath. We could literally hear a leaf crunch. The cubes stood for the other characters in her story; constantly moved, reconfigured, opened, closed. They provided punctuation for Andrea’s revelations: sometimes funny, sometimes pointed, sometimes tortured.
What do we expect from theatre? The Ancient Greeks thought that we should experience pity and fear, leading us to a resolution. Kate Stevens’ skilled direction ensured that the audience’s initial emotional response was channelled into contemplation of the ideas raised.
‘I wanted the audience to be asked the questions the piece presents to them,’ she says.
After its premiere at Mull Theatre, Dark Vanilla Jungle, is on tour in Glasgow – Webster’s Theatre, July 22; Old Hairdresser’s, July 24; and Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, July 23.
Three young women from the Isle of Mull have created a stunning work. Catch it if you can.