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Limbo

Declan Feenan
Real Circumstance Theatre Company
York Theatre Royal
(2007)

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Real Circumstance Theatre Company encourages its actors to respond on stage to changing sound effects that are different with every performance. In their one act play Limbo Caroline Williamson delivers a 60 minute monologue playing Claire, a 17 year old girl from Newry in Northern Ireland.

Naïve and youthful Claire works in a meat packing factory by day, lives alone and goes out with the 'girls' on the weekend to drink. After the excitement of a garage shop bought sponge cake to celebrate her birthday she is taken to a nightclub where she meets an older man, and, after he gives her a lift home, an affair begins.

This is Caroline Williamson's stage debut after taking Limbo to Edinburgh and initial readings in Cambridge, and she gives a masterful performance. Every tilt of her head and pull on her sleeve gives us an incredibly sheltered young girl from Northern Ireland, and standing alone on one spot for the entirety of her performance emphasises her solitude. Williamson and director Dan Sherer have worked on the tiny details of movement, and it is beautifully portrayed on stage.

Michael Nabarro's sensitive lighting essentially only brings the upper half of Claire's body into light yet her two shadows loom over her on the wall behind. Lorna Ritchie provides a minimal set of ragged metal with running water providing a pool of reflective material as Claire's word's float around us.

Declan Feenan's writing is sparse and he actively chooses to tell a tale of Northern Ireland without mention of the troubles. This is an evocative piece and the main draw is Williamson's fantastic performance - a must for all students of drama to see a wonderfully subtle and understated piece whilst being transported by Williamson's poignant story telling skills.

The short intimate piece was obviously an undoubted success in Edinburgh's busy schedule and active performances, providing a striking contrast. However there is something oddly disconnecting about seeing the piece as an evening's theatre. Feenan certainly leaves the audience 'in limbo' at the end and Claire is one of the most passive individuals any modern woman could encounter. In modern dress and with the interesting mix of a heroic understanding Aaron and philandering older man described in Claire's tale, we left wondering whether any woman could have allowed herself to write such an inert female.

This production is worth seeing for Williamson's performance alone, but be warned that you might not know whether you're sinking or swimming.

Philip Fisher reviewed this production at the Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Reviewer: Cecily Boys