Defibrillator is in the house!
This uniformly talented company, under the creative direction of James Hillier, once again comes up trumps with this emotional roller coaster where two families rampage through the fall-out of domestic abuse.
Trump territory feels ever present as Shepard looks at the folks whose searing emotional scars leave tracks of vilification so deep you wonder how any will survive. It seems survival might be in the mind and anything is possible if the mind allows itself to escape from the shackles of this bleak American landscape.
Shepard explores two contrasting families as they struggle to rebuild their lives through sibling rivalry and support. He hints that the way to escape the constraints of the mind is to unlock the pervasive control that destroys relationships: control from parents, form husbands, from mothers, families and even from the state itself.
However, this is not simply a domestic drama but rather something more poetic, more engrossing as it seeks to say something about creativity and identity. It might overtly be about the mind and how we deceive ourselves but it feels to me to be much more about the heart. Having the heart to love, free of constraints.
Love can posses us and our minds can delude us as we search for our place in the world. America is a big place and it suggests there is a town for everyone. Equally, the jealous, controlling husband informs us about the artifice of life, as he unwittingly explains that acting is just as real as anything in the world; what is not, can be, so why find a new town when you can find a new you?
So it is with this searching production – it is not one thing – both funny and sad. The company drives and navigates complex emotions, making crass everyday stereotypical lines and attitudes zing with feelings of terror and desire. Where in America is love and where is the freedom to express it? These characters crawl along their paths allowing us an understanding that they need not accept control from others or from the old grey -matter either. The struggle to be free lies in the heart and not in the mind. To hold on to love and not allow love to be gone is the quest and the dead things that surrounds them is all but a lie – a figment of their imaginations – things can be changed.
Defibrillator have a splendid cast and an ensemble that serves the play with grit and focus, particularly in the first half as they capture both the poetry and the pathos of these troubled characters. Treat yourself and see a company on the rise.
Running at Southwark Playhouse until May 27th
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