The premier of Martha Loader’s ‘The Binding’ is a perplexing piece of theatre that is perfect complemented by the intimacy of the Owl & Cat. This engaging experience was grounded with a meticulous understanding of the themes and ideas that the writer wished the audience to question.
The initial imagery of a headless pregnant mannequin in the foyer cleverly prepared the audience for the world they were about to enter which was reinforced by further visual represent within a darkened space. In saying this, the design of the show was unique as the small space sitting roughly thirty people was constructed in the round. This allowed even the most subtle movements of the cast’s breathing or a private conversation between two characters a shared experience where one could properly be drawn into the emotional state being portrayed.
Following from this, the seamless transitions of the lighting allowed clear distinctions within the plot whilst creating an overarching narrative concept. A specific moment that I particularly enjoyed was that through lighting and the moistened hair of Tehya Nicholas, who played the protagonist Annie, the audience were made to feel under water with her.
The play itself incorporated several literary references in order for one to consider the thematic concepts engendered such as pro-life or pro-choice in reference to abortion, the role of women and mothers within society and the expectations that one has on them that have been slowly naturalised. The references to Nora Helmer, Daisy Buchanan, Edna Pontellier and the poetry of Sylvia Plath made this experience quite intellectually engaging. I fear that this could have possibly alienated some audience members however the relatable characterisation that each of the actors possessed allowed the raw humanity to seep in.
Director, Ruben Clark evidently has spent an immense amount of time and focus on the text and actors in order to create such and earthy production with each performer exposing a vulnerable subtlety. The character of Annie and her sister were played by two real life sisters, Tehya and Jem Nicholas, who did not disappoint as the struggles and conflict between their characters were well formed and memorable. Shane Neville as the partner, Cam had a strong presence and perfect for what the role required in a play predominantly focussing on the female characters. Finally, Emily Nasr’s sheer energy on stage wonderfully created quips of humour and her blunt manner was illuminating to watch.
All in all, this production of ‘The Binding’ at Owl & Cat is not to be missed as it truly is a hauntingly beautiful creation of art that is engaging and unforgettable.