On the Exhale
This highly charged solo show, performed by Polly Frame under the skilled direction of Christopher Haydon, manages to bring together a poignant story of maternal loss and a tense psychological drama, all in little more than an hour.
It opens with the unnamed academic explaining her fear of weapons in an America where gun control has gone out of the window, while extolling the virtues of life as a single mother.
Soon, though, the two subjects come together with tragic consequences, as one of America's favourite hobbies—high school shooting—hits the headlines and drags our sad protagonist into perpetual grief.
Her initial response is to hide but the plucky lady gradually realises the benefits that lobbying might achieve for those who could otherwise be in her place in future.
Her two minutes of Washington glory are blighted by the sickening behaviour of a cynical senator, more interested in his constituency than the lives of children.
Thereafter, a fascination for the kind of automatic weapon that ended her son's life and the possibility of using it to good effect move the story into thriller mode, building to a dramatic ending it would be a shame to reveal.
Martin Zimmerman has written a sophisticated tale that holds the attention and provokes thought, which is all one can ask for in the midst of a festival that can get buried in ephemera.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher