Colleen Murphy’s Beating Heart Cadaver is a complex fusion of dark tragedy and comedy, within sophisticated layering. At its core, the play fuses the bitter emotions of human grief with exploring the surreal and its psychological and physical connotations. It relays the story of a little girl’s family who are struck by grief in the aftermath of her death. Leona, the mother, wavers between incomprehension, shock, anger and heart-wrenching despair, often haunted by the belief that her late daughter is still alive and is hiding in the family home. Murphy skilfully weaves the audience into the play’s layers, immersing them in the sentimental aspect of the tragedy’s aftermath and then unexpectedly subjecting them to the play’s impeccable dry, dark humour. The audience is transported along this tumultuous and relatable journey into grief.
Anna Morissey has managed to direct a clever and engaging performance by working subtle and effective elements of physicality in to the piece, in order to undertake the exploration of the human body and its consequent destruction as a result of emotional hardship. Throughout the performance, Jennifer Lee Jellicorse (Leona) clenches a red, helium balloon blown up by her daughter (Amelia) prior to her death. As it holds Amelia’s last breath, the balloon comes to signify the mother’s desperation to cherish her daughter’s memory. It subsequently acquires its own haunting and heart wrenching presence.
The talented cast deliver a truly credible performance, delivering lines with convincing emotion. Maggie McCourt is perfect as the no-nonsense grand-mother and is mostly responsible for the play’s best moments. Credit must also be given to Mary Roscoe who is alarmingly convincing as Lola, a macabre representative of the Parents of Young Accident Victims of Canada, responsible for the play’s infusion of surreal comedy. Lola’s suitcase is revealed as an unexpected shrine to her dead son, which she uses to re-enact her precious child’s final moments aided by a disturbing collection of plastic dolls.
Overall, a well put together endeavour, bravely loyal to Colleen Murphy’s unsentimental manner. A perfect combination of the tragic and the comic, where there is room for both tears and laughter.
Beating Heart Cadaver is playing at the Finborough Theatre on Sundays and Mondays until 18th April. For information and tickets see the website here.