Image of an Unknown Young Woman

Elinor Cook
Gate, Notting Hill

Eileen Walsh Credit: Iona Firouzabadi
Ashley Zhangazha Credit: Iona Firouzabadi
Susan Brown Credit: Iona Firouzabadi

Image of an Unknown Young Woman attempts to paint a diffuse portrait of a country under totalitarian rule.

Inevitably it will draw comparisons with the masters of this genre including the likes of Ariel Dorfman, Wallace Shawn and Harold Pinter.

Despite Elinor Cook's good intentions, her writing pales in such company, lacking the clarity of thought and language that has made the works of these writers universally appreciated.

The central motif is a girl in a yellow dress, captured by a passer-by as she is shot and then taking on cult status thanks to the power of social media.

Her story is obliquely told by a chorus of three, who do a good collective line in loud protest. It then runs in parallel with the experiences of a number of her fellow citizens.

Perhaps the most significant story is that of Ashley Zhangazha's Ali, who filmed the girl and, according to his partner, may well have had ulterior motives, although these are never fully explored.

Yasmin, played by Eileen Walsh, searches for her lost mother, generally getting in everyone's way with her driven but aimless efforts.

Over here, Susan Brown is gullible Candace, a divorcée. She is probably being taken for a ride by Nia, a fund-raiser for victims in the unknown country whose motives might not be as honourable as she makes out.

Einor Cook gives the impression of struggling to find adequate material to fill the 90 or so minutes, striving for suitable stories without ever hitting the jackpot and ending up with too much that is lightweight when the ostensible material should be much more serious.

On the plus side, she and Christopher Haydon directing create a memorable image of hope to accompany visitors home at the end of the evening.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher