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Prague Fringe 2024

Let the Bodies Pile by Henry Naylor

Pipeline Productions LTD

Genre: Theatre

Venue: A Studio Rubin


Low Down

Acclaimed playwright Hendry Naylor brings societal neglect to the forefront in “Let the Bodies Pile”.

Presented by:  Pipeline Productions LTD

Written by: Henry Naylor

Directed by: Darren Lee Cole

Starring:  Emily Carding & Henry Naylor


I know the audience felt uncomfortable.  Seeing a play about an elderly woman murdered by HP Shipman in 1993 and another in a care facility during the COVID nightmare of 2020 will do that.  A steadily warming tightly-packed cylinder of a theatre venue will do that.  Thinking about collective complicity will do that.  “Let the Bodies Pile” is the type of show that should disquiet our system.  It uncomfortably mirrors what the masses are screaming, ‘If you’re ok, you’re not okay’.

Henry Naylor’s script is gnawing and brutal, slowly tightening the dramatic tension in eerie, well-timed increments. The play is set in Hyde, a town that seems to trap his characters in the brooding moorland, a metaphor for the show’s material perhaps. Told through the two circumstantially unlikeable narrators (both played by Emily Carding), the plot explores geronticide through a generation and wrestles with where guilt should land. He also appears as the secondary character in both time periods, finely attuned to Carding, both in his silence and speech. 

There are moments in “Let the Bodies Pile” where lead Emily Carding is unforgettable.  There’s a coldness about her characters that appropriately seeps into her portrayal of both. It is unsettling but transfixing.  As the audience arrives you see Carding shifting and in a state of worry, hypnotically rubbing the space where her heart resides in circles with the open palm of her hand. It’s noticeable and repetitive, as if to self-soothe or explode. She does neither to the extreme during the play, which I attributed to the decision never to give her characters or the audience relief.  She is physical, serious, and specific.  At times, I felt she was not fully immersed in the scenes requiring great conflict, but after the show settled, I mostly understood that choice. All in all, Carding handles the text with great depth, commitment, and controlled power. 

Production-wise, the choices made by director Darren Lee Cole feel well-crafted and smartly edited. The set is minimal: practical boxes and tables divide the scenes and characters. The staging is intentional and clean. Abrupt blackouts to shift scenes added to the feeling of life being snuffed out. A hospital pillow, the lone and looming prop.

It’s the message of the show that I am left with this morning, however. I was particularly struck by how the final line sat impactfully in the stuffy air. For much of the play, there was a gnawing feeling of impending death and morbid apathy. And then there was not. Just a plea– I think everyone felt.  Not relief from the pile, but a call to transformative action. For this reason, I found Pipeline Production’s “Let the Bodies Pile” a desperately relevant piece in an age where we all must question our complicity.