Lidless – Trafalgar Studio 2

Does the fact that you can’t remember your past actions absolve you of any responsibility for them?

Alice is a young soldier serving as an interrogator in Guantanamo Bay; her best friend is a medic who was forced to flee Iraq at the age of eight and is using her time in the army as a route into medical school.

Alice is one of a group of interrogators who have been issued a document ‘invasion of space by a female’ that authorises a series of measures designed to humiliate their male Muslim prisoners. Alice uses these new powers to try and get information from her prisoner, Bashir. To cope with the horror, Alice pops pills as if they were sweets to lose her memory and, years later, she can only recall that she was at Guantanamo but not what she did there.

As the years pass, Alice has settled in Texas to run a florists, her former drug addict husband has turned into a new age environmental hippy, and her 14 year old daughter is beginning to question her mother’s deeply repressed history.

Into this settled life walks Bashir, intent on not only finding answers for the abuse he suffered at Guantanamo but also looking for his own redemption.

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s extraordinary play had its UK premiere at last year’s High Tide Festival in Suffolk before transferring to the Edinburgh Festival. Following the transfer of fellow High Tide production Ditch, it now transfers to London, seeing the intimate Trafalgar Studio 2 transformed for its first in the round production.

The staging is simple. takis’ minimalist design consists of a florescent tube clad scaffold cage, effectively symbolising both the Guantanamo cell and the cage that Alice has created around her new life.

The writing is incredibly powerful, if a little one-sided but, on a wider level, creates a devastating look at how actions come back to haunt people years after the initial event.

There are strong and detailed performances from the five-strong company but Penny Layden stands out as tormented Alice, perhaps more shocked with herself than others are with her as her hidden, darker past begins to surface.

Greer Dale-Foulkes also gives a deep and multi-layered portrayal as daughter Rhiannon, a young girl coming to terms not only with her own identity but forced to also come to terms with her mother’s alter-ego. As the catalyst for this unwelcomed change, Antony Bunsee works well as Bashir, portraying a man caught up in the horrors but with his own flaws that make him more than simply a victim.

The other characters of Riva and Lucas may seem less fully drawn and the ending may seem somewhat false but this is a production that stimulates thought and reflection. Lidless is delivered with an emotional intensity that grips the audience throughout and will stick in the mind long after its 75 minute run. Based on this showing one can only look forward with anticipation for this year’s High Tide festival next month.

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