Had my confidence in small theatre productions dented a bit recently, where were the likes of the The Man and Bea which were highlights of last year? OK it's only March so that's maybe a little unfair but I did think twice about going to see Lidless at the Trafalgar Studios' bijou no. 2 space.
I was lured in the end by the fact that it won the Fringe First Award at Edinburgh last year rather than its post Guantanamo Bay setting.
It is essentially the story of two families torn apart by the past. First there is Bashir (Anthony Bunsee) a prisoner and torture victim at 'Gitmo', as it is referred to, who's family life is irrevocably destroyed by his long internment. And then there is Alice (Penny Layden) who took pills to make her forget her time as a prison guard and torturer but who quickly discovers they only temporarily hold back the all-consuming flood waters of the past.
The story picks up fifteen years on when Bashir turns up at Alice's florists not so much looking for revenge as recompense and a chance at life. And from the outset it puts its marker in the sand, eschewing the obvious narrative choices and textual cliches to examine the devastating longer term psychological and physical impact on those involved and their loved ones.
And the acting all round is excellent in what is an emotional charged, gripping and sometimes harrowing play. A particular nod has to go to Greer Dale-Foulkes who plays Alice's curious teenage daughter Rhiannon, trying to establish her own identity in a way only bolshy teens can.
Lidless is refreshingly intelligent albeit an intense watch but gets 4 stars from me and is on at the Trafalgar Studios until April 2.
Easy-peasy one because Penny Layden was in the Young Vic's Vernon God Little (both productions) which I've already got connections to. First VGL production: Colin Morgan (Vernon) - with Leslie Manville in All About My Mother - Leslie was in Dark Materials with Mr W. The second VGL production: Clare Burt in VGL - played the nurse in Criminal Justice.