Park Theatre, Finsbury Park – until 9 June
Reviewed by Heather Chalkley
A powerful play, punching you in the face with the reality of the daily abuse experienced within society, as an intelligent women locked inside a body that doesn’t do quite what it is supposed to. The playwright, Athena Stevens could have focused on how Kathleen overcame her disability, however this would not have been anything new or what she wanted to say. The intensity of the play is created by the relationship between Katherine, played by Athena herself and Harrison (Jonathan McGuiness). It cleverly forces you to listen by pushing Harrison forward as the narrator, a white, middle class, good looking male.
Each flashback offered by Harrison displayed a defining moment in Katherine and Harrison’s relationship. Katherine bought Harrison back from the brink of suicide, giving him a sense of purpose. By enabling Katherine, Harrison became dependant on Katherine for his happiness. Katherine grew in confidence and her academic ability was allowed to shine through. Harrison watched on with longing and jealousy, both for her and the career she was so determined to achieve, becaming more independent of him. Harrison began to lose his rational mind, to the point where Katherine was desperate to escape, purposely inducing an abortion in the process. The power that Harrison wheeled over Katherine took a stark change of direction, when he overtly physically abused her. Katherine’s success as an architect was born out of her love for him. Harrison saw it as rubbing salt into the wound of his own failure. Katherine wanted them to build something together, Harrison was determined to fail, wallow in his own self pity and loathing.
The creative team cleverly used different shades of light and dark to determine real time and flashbacks in the play. It is a small, intimate performance space, perhaps a little too snug. However the stage management and use of radio dialogue to illustrate time periods, allowed smooth expertly executed transitions in a tight space. Movement round the stage and on and off, was fluid and natural.
Harrison points out from the get go, ‘this is not an inspirational story’. Athena Stevens has written a thought provoking and refreshingly honest feminist play that challenges your perceptions, forcing an open dialogue about the experience of being a women and in particular a disabled women, in today’s western society. If you want a new take on an old prejudice that packs a punch, Schism is a must see play!