Review: Forgive Our Paranoia: Hotbed Festival – The Junction, Cambridge

The wide open spaces, the fresh air, the big skies of the countryside, equally as unsettling to city dwellers as the confines and busy-ness unsettle rural visits to urban life. For city dwellers Ash, his girlfriend, Joy, and her sister, Beth though, the unsettling nature of a deserted coastline is nothing compared to the waves past events are having on their lives.

Chris O’Connell’s one act play for Menagerie’s Hotbed Festival is a taught, twisting saga of escalating darkness. Beth is clearly a troubled soul – a washed-up deck chair on the isolated beach enough to trigger a violent panic attack. As the mood darkens, we get to understand some of the demons that torment her – a violent past that threatens an equally violent future. Do two wrongs make a right and is Beth the only victim or is there a wider impact on her family.

O’Connell’s script is full of vivid imagery and some powerfully drawn characters. A one act play is a challenging environment in which to tackle such vivid emotional impacts and to a certain extent it does feel at times that we are only scratching the surface and there is more of a story to unfold here. O’Connell includes a fourth character, David, alongside the trio of urban escapees, though his inclusion seems little more than a catalyst for Beth’s confrontation of her inner rage. Perhaps in a longer piece the character could be developed further but in its current form it is little more than an enigma.

This shouldn’t detract from a powerful script that delivers much in a mere 45 minutes. Layers are slowly revealed to maintain suspense and interest throughout and there is a genuine interest in the central trio’s interrelationships.

There are fine performances from Jon Bonnici (Ash), Emma Beattie (Joy) and Jay Villiers (David). Especially impressive is Bethan Walker’s Beth – a finally observed study of the impact of violence and the inner conflict between the desire to forget and to exact a brutal revenge.

A gripping and moving study into the impact of crime on a family and one that promises much for future drafts.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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