The Believers – Curve, Leicester
29th March 2014
In many ways, this is all the things you’d expect from a Frantic Assembly piece of theatre – thought provoking, visually stunning with impressive physicality. Of course it was all those things.
The latest offering, a dark thriller about a couple (Goff and Marianne) who takes refuge in their neighbours (Ollie and Maud) house because their house is flooding is littered with high-quality theatricality; it’s the beautiful dimension created between the raw comedy amongst two diametrically-opposed couples in pressurised social situations compared with the then high-intensity crisis moments of the storyline.
Written by playwright Bryony Lavery, and not for the first time for Frantic, the storyline demands a brave telling – actors able to perform as recklessly as they are controlled, especially for a physical storytelling as you’d expect of Frantic. This is particularly noteworthy when a scene requires both couples to perform horizontally from harnesses in order to provide a birds-eye view perspective for the audience.
And perspective is key throughout the whole performance. Ollie and Maud are believers: in God, in prayer, in bigger powers. Goff and Marianne, on the other hand, are practical, sceptical and fun loving. They both obviously hold completely different perspectives on life: on relationships, on parenthood, on drugs, on everything. The set, by Jon Bausor, has created the perfect optical illusion on stage with numerous angular lines of strip lighting, a floating wooden door at the top, and a metal frame employed as apparatus for a number of scenes. The children are never seen or heard on stage; Ollie and Maud’s Joyous, apparently very well behaved, and Goff and Marianne’s nightmare of a child, Grace, play upstairs with very little interruption. However, everything is soon turned on its head in the middle of the night – although we anticipate this from the opening emotions, disaster strikes and Joyous and Grace were not playing nicely at all. The sound and light design here is traumatic, dis-orientating and punchy. The audience can now piece together a mixture of previous scenes; of Goff and Marianne questioning the whole evening, of the copious amounts of wine and a few spliffs consumed, of prayers, of all the different worldviews.
But there are no answers. There are no solutions. Both couples are utterly broken and Frantic make no apologies, nor should they. There are not always room for answers or solutions, most of the time, they are desperately accommodated and never arrive. In this way, the most haunting thing of this production is that is so much more than a dark thriller with elements of dark comedy. This could actually be a reality – a flood, an awkward evening, a disaster, the loss of a child.
The Believer’s, as expected with Frantic Assembly and a highly talented production team and cast, did not disappoint. But what’s important is that Frantic and company continue to take risks, continue to ask difficult questions and continue to deliver impeccable performances where neither text nor performance, writing nor acting is compromised at the expense of the other.