Letting in Air

Becky Prestwich
Box of Tricks
Old Red Lion
(2009)

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Letting in Air is all about words - what words mean, how words sound, discovering new words - and yet it is actually what is not said, the silences between these words that reveal the true story of this play.

Broken relationships and betrayal define this play about a father (Frank) and his son (Ryan) who’s already strained relationship is pushed to the limits following the death of their wife/mother. As they struggle through, neither really speaking their true feelings, a catalyst appears in the unlikely form of a sixteen year old called Amy who brings all these unspoken tensions to the surface with repercussions nobody is ready for.

Amy, played by the terrific Rebecca Elliot, is incapable of not saying the first thing that pops into her head and can only speak the truth. She is a damaged young girl, who, although sixteen, seems to be stuck in the mind space of a ten year old. After she meets Frank outside the theatre they become unlikely friends. Perhaps the first person she has ever known who hasn’t taken advantage of her, Frank is almost as naive as Amy to think that his family won’t read more into their relationship than there actually is. However, it is through the close bond that Frank forms with this stranger that he is able to address the reasons why he has never truly connected with his own son.

The superb cast portray Prestwich’s characters in all of their tortured glory under the subtle direction of Adam Quayle. Edmund Kente’s sensitive portrayal of Frank as a man who is just looking for someone to take care of is heartbreaking. Rebecca Elliot’s Amy is utterly open and completely honest. A great comic actress who avoids becoming a caricature, Elliot also accesses the tortured soul of this girl who, on the one hand, has never experienced childhood yet cannot escape from her childlike imagination. Ryan Hawley shows that still waters run deep as confused and hurt son Adam who struggles to deal with his changing family situation as it seems to implode.

Letting in Air is exactly what you need to do after this tense two hour drama which leaves you feeling as if you have been holding your breath for the entire duration. A fantastic piece of new writing which reminds you just how excellent fringe theatre can be – providing the space for new voices to be heard and Prestwich’s is a voice that really must be listened to.

Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan