By guest critic Alistair Wilkinson (@alistairwilks)
Is there a choice you wouldn’t have made, if you had known how that decision would have turned out? That is the question asked in Villain. Written and directed by Martin Murphy, this hour-long solo performance is intensely moving, satisfyingly upsetting, but with just the right amount of humour to make it upbeat.
Opening to a slick, swing rendition of ‘Crazy In Love’ and a single red chair located centre-stage, the performance does not need to rely on fancy set changes; the use of lighting, sound and clever writing effectively guides the audience throughout. We meet Rachel, a successful saleswoman, turned social worker, and like her instantly. We become intrigued by the complicated nature of her persona; a confident and bubbly individual whose life turns tragic after a case she was involved in goes horribly wrong. The character is brutally honest with the audience, and it is possible to feel some sort of remorse for what she is going through. Warm humour is placed precisely in order to not allow the piece to become too somber. Moments relating to Rachel’s days as a student lift the mood, including a clever goldfish analogy referencing mens’ lack of ability to abstain from too much sex.
Contemporary issues of Twitter trolling and online abuse feature throughout, but they are not put in just for the sake of it – instead it adds complexity to the narrative and fleshes out the overall story. Throughout the performance we begin to understand why Rachel has become a nation’s villain – the piece isn’t necessarily about how her story ends, but instead concerned with the process it took to get her there. Despite her monologue jumping from different points in time, it is easily possible to keep up with her journey, and recognise the pivotal moments that brought this high-flying achiever to her demise.
Maddie Rice does an excellent job to create a warm atmosphere where she is able to communicate her story. Her ability to tell a story is evident; the pictures clearly showed the trauma that the character experiences. In fact – Rice’s performance is superb, her delivery is natural enough that it seems to be more of a conversation with a friend over coffee. It is clear that Rice has a talent in comedy as well as a repertoire of convincible accents that roll off her tongue effortlessly.
Villain is a smartly written and cleverly performed story that effectively blends comedy with tragedy. Rice’s acting compliments a strong script and together makes a piece of theatre that is certainly worth a watch.
Villain runs through 12 February.
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