Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Shred and Balloon Head Productions present Wednesday, a gritty play of kidnap, torture and intrigue. Two people are held captive in a dingy basement and are consistently tormented by a third. As the play unfolds we discover the bizarre reasons for their internment, their tangled relationships with each other and endure their heightened anxiety as they desperately scrabble to find the way to tap into their captor’s conscience and seize an opportunity for release.
The scene is set in a dirty dark basement. There is a single bed, central stage, and a woman in red trousers, is gagged, blindfolded and bound to its frame. Seated on the floor in the corner is a young man wearing a fake wolf’s head, he is unconscious. A chirpy male enters chatting away nonchalantly to his victims. He talks to them as if they are old friends and there captivity is normal. The woman on the bed is distressed and agitated. He reveals they have been tied up and drugged for days and they must be hungry. He fidgets with the lights a constant source of frustration for him, trying to keep control of the situation. He tries to feed them, the woman resists, but the male on the floor eats.
The kidnapper witters on insensitively, he is mundane and irrelevant. He leaves the room often and in these absences the victims try to connect to each other and establish what is going on. Eventually released from their blindfolds yet still tied, they acknowledge that both of them have been in a similar situation before. Their history unfolds between the kidnapper’s erratic arrival and departures. You can hear him running up and down stairs, the television blaring Coronation Street, they reveal their names, Rose and Daniel. Their conversations begin to become more heated as they uncover that their relationship is not what it first seemed. This is also the catalyst that forces their kidnapper to play a different hand as he begins to suspect the bonding between them. The drama inevitably becomes violent as each player attempts to control the dynamic in the room. Finally it is Rose, who persistently wears down Daniels fears, and successfully unlocks his inner strength. The tables are turned and the outcome startling.
Directed tautly by Trevor Macfarlane, this piece is hard hitting and uncomfortable. The character’s, that were at the outset small whilst they are being humiliated, begin to expand as their personality traits become more apparent. In reverse the kidnapper becomes tiny when any part of his plan misfires. It’s a wrestling match, with a tag team, throwing the emphasis of power to each player. Whether its Roses lack of acceptance that she will be a victim or Daniels stubborn resolve that he will not antagonise the kidnapper, they are dependent on each other. The kidnapper’s continuous banter and agitation with the lights was an irritation to you and the victims but it is his unexpected alliance to one of them that keeps the power play unsettled. Just when you felt familiar with the characters and that you understood their roles, the conspiratorial relationships changed.
With a bed that was able to be dragged around the set, and extremely efficient audio cues the tension was fully maintained. The kidnapper achieves dark humour with his incredulous comments in what clearly is a high pressured situation. His frustration when Rose refuses to eat or when he cuts himself by accident show the little boy that he is like a child playing with toys that can’t respond. His tantrums are fitful and subtly enhanced with his stamping up stairs. The body language of the two victims when they hear doors slamming or returning footsteps is timed perfectly. Plunged into dim light where their whispers are all you can hear, or exposed in the glaring of the naked light bulb, they hold the watchers on the edge of their seats, in a white knuckle ride of terror.
The humour and physical marriage in this drama is worthy of Tarantino. It’s deviant, intricate and complicated like a spiders web. This company’s gift is to be able to tell a simple story, simply, yet allow you access to the hidden layers.