Grief was rejected and embraced in a warm hug, surrounded by a small house whose floral patterns created a beautiful shadow silhouette. It was eerie. Creepy. And dark. The audience watched in an overlapping blackness, the madness that Lali caged herself in.
A tutor named Lali arrives at the Bamford mansion to tutor their children, somehow finding herself compelled to padlock herself in the playhouse near the mansion. Everything begins to unravel like the sweet ribbons on a present box.
British-Iranian playwright Shadi Hamta is a one-woman army narrating the madness that is Lali and the other characters that make up the Bamford family who try to talk the intruder out of their home. It’s electric to watch how simple it is for Hamta to become another character. The switch and movements never leave anyone confused about who she is portraying.
It’s a surreal story, intriguing to watch how one act of madness can escalate and impact others. Unravelling all over the place and being played by one person, was an intriguing experience. The complexity of the act matched perfectly with the simple outfit she wore, a white shirt, red shorts and trainers. It added more eeriness to how normal-looking Lali was but under the surface was hiding tremendous grief and an inability to face reality. It was also perfect when lights dimmed around her, casting shadows. The shadows looked perfect, with no baggy clothes disorienting the shadow form. It was a perfect replica of Lali showcasing the madness hidden under normality.
The music was sickly and tense adding to the maddening reflection Lali was facing. It added to the memories she was relieving, the heartbeat monitor beating away as she recalled her father and the hospital. It was atmospheric and you would never know when Lali would relieve her past. Lost in her overwhelming grief and memories, the music etched that numbness that could be triggered by everything and nothing. One moment she was talking to the son, the next reminiscing small details about her childhood.
The set-up on stage added more weight to Hamta who used her voice and facial expression to tell the story. The warm lights from the veins outside of the small house set up, illuminated well within the stories and memories Lali was losing herself to. The lights added to Hamata’s expressions, lighting her face at times, adding to the surrealism and eeriness of the situation.
It was an enjoyable performance from start to finish watching Lali lose herself to her madness and how the Bamford family reacted, slowly unravelling themselves too. And once we reach the end, the serene calmness has returned to Lali who leaves while the mess that is the Bamford family rages on. Maybe Lali has embraced the grief she is facing, maybe she’s ready to leave and move forward now that she leaves the playhouse. Reality awaits and the abruptness of her departure added to the eeriness of the performance.