Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“How long ’til someone is gone, how long ’til missing, how long ’til dead? A rusty old Ute clangs down the highway. Meanwhile, a girl sits in a sticky motel room, curtains drawn, counting the turns of the ceiling fan. When Mel’s best friend, Sarah, goes missing at a music festival she wonders if she is the only one really looking. Inspired by true events, Miss Sarah looks at the debilitating nature of hope, focusing on the unseen victims of missing person cases, those left behind. A Lynchian nightmare, a psychological thriller, one girl’s search for Sarah.”
The atmosphere is tense. An old Tv sits alone on stage and as the lights slowly fade a film begins to play. The picture is grainy and weathered, an old home movie that feels nostalgic and deeply personal. Two girls dance around at what looks like a festival. They are smiling, covered in glitter and one of them is wearing fairy wings. As we are drawn into this image two ominous figures dressed in overalls slowly approach the stage. Torches in hand they scour the theatre illuminating a pair of battered wings that lie on the floor in front of us. As one of the figures retrieves the wings and places them in a plastic bag, it becomes apparent that we are confronted by a crime scene. A girl has gone missing, and what follows is an exploration of how, or why that might have happened as well as the affect that such events have on those involved.
We are first introduced to Melissa as she stumbles down the highway without food or water. The girl has run away from home in search of her friend who went missing at a music festival. Melissa (Ella Cook) is picked up by a truck driver (Jordan Galloway) who’s intentions remain somewhat unclear. He is friendly, but moments of unease between the two new acquaintances quickly work to unsettle the audience and question the trust that Melissa places in him. In the meantime, Melissa’s estranged father (Adam Trussell) and aunt (Lily Newbury-Freeman) argue over the possible causes of her disappearance. As they find ways of blaming each other, history is unearthed and we are given an insight into the psychology of these characters and the complex relationships that operate within their family.
The tense atmosphere is well crafted and drives the performance through the hour. The darkness and mystery that surrounds the event is compelling and leaves us to construct the world around which the play is centered. The staging is beautifully sparse, the direction confident and imaginative. This combination is refreshing and gives the actors the freedom to work without being cluttered by complicated movement or rushed transitions. At times, the dialogue feels slightly cumbersome, the text full of short responses that could be developed so as not to inhibit the rhythm of each scene. The actors offer strong performances but it would be nice to see more nuanced characterization and varied delivery, especially between Trussell and Newbury-Freeman, whose relationship is characterized by continual arguing which could be developed to incorporate a wider range of registers. The performance stops slightly short and having invested in the characters and plot of this piece it would be nice to see the story unfold even further.
Overall, Cicada Studios have constructed an hour of tense and absorbing drama which I am more than happy to recommend.