Abigail Review

The Bunker 10 January – 4 February.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The Bunker’s inaugural season closes with the world premiere of Fiona Doyle’s Abigail.

The play opens with a couple verbally sparring on the one year anniversary of their relationship, then flashes back to the couple on the day they first met in a snowy Berlin. The fractured timeline interweaves the beginning of their relationship – full of sweet moments, but with hints of the emotional damage of both characters – with the wreckage that remains after a year together.

The woman (Tia Bannon) is much younger than the Man (Mark Rose), and the spare script gives subtle hints about her motivation and attraction to a middle-aged man. Her relationship with her recently dead father appears to have been abusive, but nothing is clarified, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions. The audience are also trusted to realise the woman’s reasons for travelling to Berlin from throwaway lines. Likewise, the man is always apologising for things he has done, which are never disclosed. As their anniversary night draws to an end, it becomes clear where the power lies in this relationship, but while there is some powerful acting from Bannon as she goes into full psycho mode, this doesn’t satisfy, as too many questions are left unanswered.

I’m all for the audience following a trail of breadcrumbs, and for most of the play this works, but the final violent confrontation on their anniversary answered some questions about the woman, and none about the man. This disappointment is quickly dissipated by a masterfully judged final scene reminding the audience of the hope and love that had first blossomed between the couple.

Tia Bannon gives a wonderful portrayal of a damaged woman, with nuanced looks and body language saying much more than the script at times. Mark Rose has a tougher job in his role. He is funny and exasperating trotting out facts about art and archaeology, and his moments of apology are handled deftly, but the script just doesn’t give him enough to work with.

To match the piecemeal, sparse script, Max Dorey’s set of packing cases and boxes is ideal. The cast scramble up stepped boxes, move a few boxes, and they are in a graveyard or on top of a cliff. Director Joshua McTaggart has produced an atmospheric and interesting piece of theatre, but the characters need a little more fleshing out to make this truly satisfying and memorable.