The Half (3 stars)

The Half

Comedy drama by Danielle Ward is a troubling two hander

A volley of insults fly in comedian Danielle Ward's brittle new comedy drama, set backstage before the callout for hair and make-up.

Staging a riff on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane for a charity show, estranged double act, (the bitter Nell (Anna Crilly) and bolshy Kathy (Margaret Cabourn- Smith)) both in costume, echo Bette and Joan's dynamic, as they spit pure venom at each other. While Nell is a struggling single mum, though, Kathy is happily hanging out in Laurel Canyon.

But as the flashbacks on the disintegration emerge, both personal and professional, sad home truths around the industry (sexism, violence and a short shelf life for female actors) are painfully brought to the fore.

Crilly and Cabourn-Smith are both excellent, bringing real heft and a slight melancholy to their respective roles. Yet, Ward's lack of character development feels frustrating at times. A protracted scene involving killing a mouse adds little to the narrative, except sheer nastiness.

It's in the eye rolls, pill popping and sighs that the duo excel, desperate to find some kind of meaningful connection, while aware that their friendship, as with their double act, has had its day. A poignant, sharp sideways glance at the showbusiness factory.

Pleasance Courtyard 1–26 Aug (not 13) 2 pm, £12.50 (£11.50)

The Half

  • 3 stars

Fabric Productions in association with Danielle Ward and Anna Crilly A brand-new play from Danielle Ward, writer of cult Fringe shows Take-A-Break Tales, Psister Psycho, Gutted and Dani Frankenstein. Starring Anna Crilly (Succession, Lead Balloon). Thirty minutes before curtain up, a double act meet for the first time…

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