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Airsick

Emma Frost
Bush
(2003)

Emma Frost's first play presents its audience with five damaged people seeking happiness that they will never find. As the playwright rather labours, each of them has a black hole at their centre that can never be filled. The set itself is a simple "black hole" designed by Es Devlin.

Celia Robertson's artist, Lucy, and Susannah Doyle's appropriately-named Scarlet are like chalk and cheese but have been friends since childhood.

Lucy is concerned about her weight and has an awful habit of falling in love with terrible men. Her belief that her latest love, an American called Joe (played by Eric Loren), is the real thing does not seem even to persuade herself. This lad is happier spending time with her father than with Lucy.

Scarlet does little better with her one-night stands. Life seems to look up for both when they meet angelic Kiwi (played by Gideon Turner with an Aussie accent) Gabriel. He is a laid-back traveller who doesn't seem to have the hang-ups that plague the remaining characters.

Just to show that the older generation does no better, we see Peter Jonfield as Mick, Lucy's self-pitying, hypochondriac father, who has never recovered from her mother's desertion.

Emma Frost writes some extremely funny lines. She has not allowed this to prevent her from making each of these characters both interesting and believable and her technique of allowing the two ladies to address the audience is inspired. Susannah Doyle is marvellous as the slightly kooky Scarlet who loves telling tales in a self-deprecating style.

As so often at the Bush, this play directed by Mike Bradwell takes an oblique view of society today, penetrating beneath the veneer of happiness to people's inner selves. He has a knack of finding new playwrights who are able to invent entirely believable characters and give them great depth. That is a rare talent.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher