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Fringe review: Did The Wasp at the Jermyn Street Theatre have a sting in its tail?

Lisa Gorgin and Selina Giles in The Wasp. Photo by Andreas Grieger

The Wasp didn't get off on the right foot for me. It immediately falls into easy stereotypes of the working and middle classes and struggled to pull attention away from that until much later in the play.

We are introduced to two women who are meeting in a cafe, they are former school friends who haven't seen each other for 20 years. Carla (Lisa Gorgin) is common sounding, casual clothes, hair Croydon facelift style, pregnant with her fifth, smoking, works in Morrison's and is strapped for cash. She drinks builders tea and chews gum.

Heather (Selina Giles) is smartly dressed, professional looking, neat conventional hair, middle class accent and obviously reasonably well off. She 'rescues' a latte and later drinks camomile tea to be 'good'.

The stereotypes don't stop with appearances. Carla, we learn, had a physically abusive father and takes it out on people at school, people like Heather who comes from a loving, stable home. Naturally.

Where the play gets a little more interesting is in the proposal that Heather has for Carla. At first it seems outlandish and unbelievable but it's a narrative to stick with because it comes good in the way writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm unpacks the history between, and of, these two women and how that is shaping the terms of their reunion. And the pay off does have a little sting.

There are some structural problems with the second half, the situation that transpires means that only one character can speak for a lot of the time. The monologues make for flat action compared to when the two characters engage. The set design, when the story moves to an apartment in the second and third act, while smart does lean towards obvious signifiers - there is a butterfly (effect) collection on the wall, for example.

The Wasp has elements that make it an interesting thriller and is at times gripping but, taken as a whole piece, it is let down by those stereotyped characters which negate the chance of more surprises and tension. It's two hours long with an interval and I'm giving it three stars. It's at the Jermyn Street Theatre until August 12.