Worm-Hole_image_with_textLyric Theatre 18 June 2015

BR Rating ****

By John Pownall

Niki McCretton’s solo show, which she first took to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2001, mixes vivid physical theatre with energetic and graceful choreography. It involves a charged emotional journey undertaken by a solitary woman in nun’s habit, confined to the space of a room that becomes a kind of prison during the course of the story – a story almost devoid of words.

The room faces us as the show begins, furniture stands draped in white sheets, a door opens and a solitary woman enters. Music plays almost throughout, each piece the backdrop to a section of the repeated cycle of the heroine’s daily routine that seems dictated by a bizarre filing system of trunks stretching across the rear of the stage. These trunks contain a series of objects, food (never has Pot Noodle seemed quite so unappealing), and Time magazine cover-portraits that are hung on the wall, first Einstein, then Margaret Thatcher, and finally the Queen. This triad of figures provides a sense of the external power that exerts influence over the young woman’s life. What’s happening here? Like Beckett and the theatre of the absurd, it’s not easy to describe what the play is about, yet something interesting is clearly going on.

Certainly, the gradual disintegration of the woman seems emblematic of the corrosive effect of regimented life, of life lived to rules, constrained by false gods and sacred texts. In the end, there is a sense of gleeful subversion as the heroine disrobes, removing her habit and joining with a puppet facsimile of herself, finally breaking through the fourth wall, walking through the auditorium out of the fire exit and into Rax Lane and midsummer sunshine.

It’s that lovely sunshine that Niki wants to bring into the Lyric more often, with the funds necessary to replace antique, boarded-up windows in this grand, but high-maintenance listed building. The show has been reprised to help raise those funds, and tickets are free on the door with audience members encouraged to donate as they desire at the end.

The show deserves a big audience on its own merit and there is the added incentive to help preserve one of Bridport’s most interesting buildings, and a theatre space which allows this kind of niche production to live and thrive.