15 May

Transgressive theatre dissolves received wisdoms in an acid bath of wit.

An old tension in psychology is that between nature and nurture. Are we born a particular way? Or is it our experiences that create the person we are?

Writer/director Mark Langham has presented a very funny, very clever play that pushes this tension centre stage. And then pushes it right off.


Amanda, played with an energetic kookiness by Amylea Griffin, is being held by the police for questioning. She has committed some heinous crime, though no-one seems quite certain what it is. In a series of flashbacks, both amusing and disturbing, Elizabeth MacGregor and Paul Armstrong wonderfully portray crazy characters who inhabit Amanda’s back history. This personal history is so wacky we’re clearly not getting reality – whatever that could be.

The concept of identity itself is being questioned (whereas the tired dichotomy of nature versus nurture merely takes the concept for granted and hence perpetuates it.) Langham’s thought provoking play highlights this exploration with a playful recurring motif, that of molecular transfer. If you sit on a bike, there’s a transfer of molecules; the bike seat becomes a little ‘human’, and the human a little ‘bike’. The hard and fast sense of identity is dissolved.

Langham further works this vein by incorporating Brechtian elements into the production. The stage manager (Noemie Jounot) grumbles hilariously in and out of the action. It’s a powerful reminder that this is all verisimilitude; the actors are only playing at creating characters or identities.

And then, thematically, there’s a tension that tears complacent realism apart. The question is raised: What part in our lives is played by fear? What by hope?

(Personal digression: Hope is the most radical of the three Christian virtues. The other two are Love and Faith. Love can speak for itself. Faith is out of fashion; it’s an assertion of knowledge we feel we have no right to claim. Hope, on the other hand, is a glorious unknowing, an appreciation that our visions of our world, and ourselves, are always incomplete.)

Hope is our forgotten virtue. Its very openness makes it difficult for conventionality to portray.

And it is impossible to own.

It requires a letting go.

Veronica Kaye


Amanda by Mark Langham

at TAP Gallery til May 18th

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