Corpus Playroom Mainshow, 7pm, until Sat 16th June
Coming-of-age stories are always, as far as I’m concerned at least, a bit of a literary minefield. After all, whilst the themes and issues involved are often widely relevant, they are also a little overdone and there’s only so many times one can hear the line, “I just need my own space to spread my wings” before you’re thoroughly sick of it. I was surprised and a little nervous, therefore, when I noted that ‘Widow’s Walk’ had been described by writer and director Robert Yates as “an addition to this tradition”.
The basic storyline is of a young painter, Abigail (Ana Escobedo) who is about to open her first exhibition amidst angst regarding her beloved brother finally returning from sea, and drama over her decision to quit the exclusive art school she had been previously attending. It is told in three parts, the first being two weeks before the show, the next two days and finally concluding as she prepares to open. The whole play is set in her “widow’s walk”, a small rooftop porch room overlooking the sea. This set-up allowed for good use of the limited space in the Corpus Playroom, meaning that the minimalist staging remained impressive, whilst not overpowering the production. Despite this, however, gaps between the three parts were oddly lengthy and broke the flow somewhat.
Likewise, the play was let down at times by some painful examples of wooden acting and poor delivery. Scenes supposedly portraying the tension between Abigail’s mother (Maddie Skipsey) and her patronising and forceful art mentor, Margaret (Erica Irving), fell a little limp; as did the occasional scene of confrontation in which seemingly calm characters burst forth in sometimes inexplicably sudden moments of annoyance, before immediately regaining their composure. That said, this did not detract for the most part from the delivery of the story, and what really saved it was the sterling performance of Freddie Crossley as Abigail’s friend, Joe. Between them, he and Ana Escobedo managed to conjure up a few touching and poignant moments, and a couple of laughs too.
It is sometimes difficult when reviewing original writing to differentiate between problems with the script and problems with the performance. Because of this, I am reticent to offer much criticism of the script itself. The story did its job perfectly adequately: it was original but hardly ground-breaking. The rather abrupt ending was a pleasant twist, adding a little artistic flare, but, this aside, the production lacked the spark one really looks for in stories treading the already worn boards of this genre.