By Roxana Graves
What a treat. It was a bar show extraordinaire. There have been some great two-handers this past year or so, some fabulous performances and great scripts, and the latest bar offering did not disappoint. I hadn’t read the script by Morgan Lloyd Malcom. When I had asked to borrow a copy, it was suggested to me that I’d be better off waiting as surprises would be spoiled. I am very pleased I took that advice. The sheer thrill of being so thoroughly drawn in and surprised would have been lost.
It begins with a meeting between two old school friends who have clearly had very different lives. Carla, played to perfection by Laura Ings Self – heavily pregnant but no less scary because of it – arrives first and is smoking heavily. This was no chance meeting. Heather, played by Hazal Han, has put some time and effort into not only finding her but finding out about her. She puts together her previous knowledge of Carla together with what she gleans from Facebook.
Heather finds out that Carla has a brood of children, no career to speak of and a desperately unhappy relationship. Life on the whole is a struggle. Heather has done well for herself by conventional standards: nice clothes, career, money, home and respectably married; at least on the surface.
Heather arranges to meet Carla in a café and offers her £30,000 to kill her cheating husband.
Carla is understandably surprised by this offer; of all the things she had possibly imagined might be said during this meeting this probably wasn’t one of them. She doesn’t jump at the idea, but eventually agrees. Heather has done her homework and is well aware of Carla’s bleak situation and the likelihood of her turning down a big financial incentive. During the conversation, we find out that their friendship had not lasted throughout school; Carla had turned against Heather.
So, they go back to Heather’s house to make plans for the murder of her husband, but it’s all a set-up. Carla ends up knocked out and tied to a chair. Interval.
I rarely find myself at an interval desperate to find out what happens next: we usually know more or less what happens next and the joy is in the performance itself, but this really got me thinking and the twist at the end was very clever.
With Carla tied up, Heather gives an incredible speech about the bullying and final horrific assault she had suffered at the hands of a group of girls led by Carla, who ends the ordeal by whispering “Good girl”. Heather had been unable to conceive a long-wanted child, despite going through IVF. While examinations and tests did not reveal anything wrong physically, she is convinced that her inability to conceive is as a result of the vicious attack; believing there was somehow a ‘blockage’ inside her. To add insult to injury, in the midst of trying for a family she finds out her husband is seeing a prostitute who is none other than Carla. Ouch and double ouch. It is very apparent in this scene that perhaps Heather is not as grounded in reality as she initially appears. From the look in Carla’s eyes you can see she is petrified.
Heather agrees to untie the unwitting Carla and lays the rather substantial blade at her feet while doing so. You realise almost straight away that this must be deliberate. It is timed precisely so that Carla is already convinced that Heather is a killer (having confessed to already doing her own husband in) and, having been given the option to walk away, Carla stabs Heather. Almost immediately we hear a rather jolly sounding husband arrive home from work. As Heather collapses on the sofa, she whispers, “Good girl.”
We have no idea what happens next, or even if Heather is still alive. We do realise that this was the plan all along, to take down the two people she had felt most betrayed by. But at what cost to herself? Of course they are both victims. My sympathies swayed between the characters during the performance, but rested finally with poor Carla whose entire life had just been about survival. It doesn’t justify her behaviour, but it does explain it. I don’t think Heather was familiar with the words of Marcus Aurelius: “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury”.
What a fabulous script! Laura and Hazal were very well cast, and both gave mightily good performances and, despite being director Richard Stewart’s debut the direction was exceptional. Hats off to everyone involved in this little gem.