- Eddie Harrison
- 14 August 2018
False memories uncovered in a short but well-acted two-hander
Written by David Martin and directed by Jacqs Graham for Bristol-based Softsod productions, Unspoken is a play performed by Martin and actress Lucy Elzik; it sets out a simple stall as the actors emerge onto a stage cluttered with toys, books and other objects from a life packed and unpacked. Happy childhoods rarely make for striking plays, and Unspoken aims to depict the horror of child abuse and how it affects the victims.
This is a psychological drama, played as a two-hander between Martin and Elzik. Martin plays a stuffy therapist who is listening to an unhappy woman recount how the abuse committed by her father led her to a path that caused great trauma to others. The therapist recognises that his patient is unwittingly conflating several events to deny the truth about what really happened, and uses an experience of his own to help her uncover the truth.
Unspoken is a rare play in that it's far too short, and that's due to a lack of action rather than the detail involved. Martin and Elzik both give committed performances, but this feels more like the first half of a play, and needs further development. Compared to something as complex as Equus, in which the psychiatrist and his patient cause great disruption to each other's psyches, the case described here is rather open and shut in textbook fashion. An uncomfortable scene in which the therapist is forced to dance with his patient would seem like the obvious jumping-off point for expansion; the female protagonist's attraction to masculine figures of power is identified as an issue, but not explored.
Unspoken is a promising start, but feels like a work-in-progress; issues are raised, but are solved rather too easily and with too much use of symbolism to provide easily understood answers. Psychiatry can be a messy business, and Unspoken's narrative is too clean-cut to involve.
C royale, until 27 Aug (not 14), 12.55pm, £8.50–£9.50, (£6.50–£7.50).