Wednesday 17th August 2022 at Actors East Theatre, London
Reviewer: Emma Dorfman
Trigger warning: suicide
Suicide and suicidal ideation are, undoubtedly, heavy subject matter. And so, David Stokes’ decision to highlight these difficult conversations through a comedic lens is, without a doubt, the way to go. This production of She Shrieked, however, has perhaps veered too far off into the language of comedy and casualness, at the expense of what is at the very heart of this piece.
She Shrieked begins with the highest of stakes. We meet Mimi (Annie Foreman), a young woman who has just had a particularly bad day and, we later find out, a blasé life. She is at the top floor of an office building, considering whether to jump out of the open window in front of her. Suddenly, another woman, Ninette (Demi Leigh), comes to intervene. From here, we witness the two women walking a tightrope between building up the strength to live and garnering the will to end it all.
Whilst the arguments between these two questions are relatively clear, the writing and direction hasn’t quite yet locked into the structure that binds them. Foreman and Leigh often wander around the space, and, similarly, the arguments their characters make never seem to land on a specific interrogation. Both women, for instance, express their predilections for sleeping with men who are bad for them, but the root of this superficial fact is never quite fully examined.
The space is incredibly bare, save two white chairs. Whilst this aligns with fringe aesthetics, this particular set proved to be somewhat distracting. The actors, at times, would rely heavily on what little there was on stage—dragging the furniture, leaning on it, choosing to sit and stand at awkward times. You could certainly tell the actors were given few, if any, rules for their movements and gestures. And any movement that was done was not quite yet motivated by the text itself.
The premise of the piece is an interesting one, and the top of the play was loaded with stakes that deserve to be followed through. In my opinion, the relationship that unfolds between Mimi and Ninette should be at the heart of the piece, but how the two get from point A to point B (strangers to something far greater) is still somewhat muddled. Stokes has nailed specific comedic moments, often eliciting heavy laughter in the audience, but it is also just as equally crucial that the tragedy underneath these jokes is fully explored.
She Shrieked plays at the Actors East Theatre until August 19th 2022 – you can find tickets and more information here.
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