It has to be said that I am a huge fan of suspense horror/thriller theatrical productions. Sure, if you want to get a buzz you can always watch a film of a man sawing off his leg, but there is nothing quite like watching a story unfold live in front of you, especially when there is no pillow to hide your face behind.
Chew is an award winning horror that focuses on the psychological turmoil of an unstable Psychologist (or so we first think). As I watch, the production draws me in, although in total honesty, it’s hard for me to say why. Perhaps it is the clever lighting and sound design or the intense and intrinsic characters. Either way, both are a marvellous distraction from the fact that it’s hard to really understand what on earth is going on.
It’s clear that the language is vivid in its use of imagery, and the depth that playwright, Sarah Tejal Hamilton goes into with the characters allows a lot of room for exploring, something which I can imagine the cast had a lot of fun with. All of the cast justify these intense characters with imaginative choices which add light and shade to the piece. I particularly enjoyed Holly McFarlane’s portrayal of the character Beth. As we delve further into the piece we discover how she wavers over the line between uncertainty and assurance of her actions. It’s a hard concept to demonstrate but she gratified this very well.
Mitch Howell makes some interesting choices as the character of Dr Haynes. Again, later into the play, we discover Dr Haynes’s fragility in his mind: whether he agrees with this fragility or not, and the conflict involved in his mind as he tries to work this out. I must say, I did find his vocal choices quite confusing. Howell delivers each line with a raspy voice, which begins to become unsettling on the ear and actually quite distracting. He delivers the intensity in his performance at such a strong pace, but it may have been nice to see this character from a different angle, perhaps reverting to a child-like state and talking in a slightly higher and softer tone.
I came out of the theatre intrigued, but confused. I desperately wanted to unravel the ribbons of my thoughts to piece together some kind of chronological sense, but this seemed to be quite difficult. This isn’t to say that the piece isn’t enjoyable, but as a whole it could do with a little more clarity. Nonetheless, it is clear to see why Hamilton won an award for the shorter version of this story. Regardless of if you can make sense of it, Chew is wildly different and captivating. It is clear that Hamilton has the ability to go far with her work and will create pieces of art that grasp people in unique and interesting ways.
Chew played at the Etcetera Theatre from 29 – 31 January. For more information, see www.etceteratheatre.com