Review: Molly

Daniel Rowe 28 November 2012

Molly

Corpus Playroom, 9.30pm, until Sat 1 Dec

This was a play which made me feel very uncomfortable – from before the play started to at least an hour after I left the auditorium. Indeed, perhaps as soon as I read in the programme that Molly was a production about domestic violence I felt ill at ease in the usually friendly location of the Corpus Playroom. Even if this is a theme which has received considerable artistic attention over the years – and even if the plot of Molly itself was not wholly unpredictable – it was the way which in which this story was told that left me feeling utterly unnerved.

So, this was a play not unlike a Hitchcockian film. Just as with Hitchcock, suspense depended not on not knowing what, but on not knowing how; just as with Hitchcock, our attention was focused as much on the director, on the writer, as it was on the actors. Indeed, director and writer collide in this piece of original writing by Rhiannon Allen, who then took on the main backstage role. And in this way, as a first – but perhaps all too easily overlooked comment – one has to praise both the script and Allen’s directorial decisions.

Dance is one of them. Dance is arguably what makes one wriggle the most in one’s seat. Molly, punctuated with the body in motion, not only generally shows physical movement as self expression, but specifically offers its audience the clash of the lyrically-charged music, of the fluidity of dancers’ skill, and yet of the powerlessness of its protagonist, Molly (Pearl Mahaga) in the face of abuse. For a director to harness the power of music and movement to this extent – and save for a few awkward moments when music changes were sudden and so clumsy – is to be highly commended as an effective way of conveying what the programme calls Molly’s subconscious and what, in practical terms, is the skill of a whole series of dance artists.

And the echoes of Hitchcock in this play – at the very least of cinema – are not only the importance of directorial decisions, but also the value placed on lighting. If I ignore here the performance of the actors, it is only to note that they were flawless but for one or two awkward moments towards the beginning of the play – all the more remarkable given the demanding roles; lighting, however, was what made these actors shine (literally and metaphorically). Lighting periodically shifted our focus from action to monologue, from external world to subconscious, from the dark world of violence to the audience’s enlightenment about its effects. Lighting skilfully brought across that which words struggled to describe in a play in which language is so abused.

If there is one actor who deserves special mention, however, it is Lewis Macdonald in the role of Pete. Unfortunately too often laden with a predictable, amateurishly-scripted role as the man who sees it coming, Macdonald was despite this always convincing, never stilted and free from mistakes. The performances of our protagonists were all good – this one just stood out.

Indeed, this is a play which, if its plot is predictable and its acting generally acceptable, has an interesting approach. If I knew what was coming, I nonetheless felt ill at ease. And for this reason Molly is thoroughly recommendable.

Daniel Rowe