Be Still my “Beating Heart Cadavre” @ The Finborough Theatre 3.5*

Not for the faint of heart this 90 minute drama plots the destruction wrought by the untimely death of Leona and Danny’s only child Amelia pushing the audience to the precipice of despair.

Set in Toronto, Canada the palpable desolation in the aftermath of a car crash that claims 8 year old Amelia and leaves Danny (Tim Beckmann) in a wheelchair could not be more heart wrenchingly real.  Harsh as Colleen Murphy’s play is it is difficult to imagine a more accurate depiction than this production elegantly and sensitively directed by Anna Morrissey.

If you can bear the dark depths of family anguish then you’re unlikely to find a more truthful interpretation.

Purging the home of Amelia’s possessions Leona (Jennifer Lee Jellicourse) clings to a balloon believing it holds her daughter’s final breath.  She cradles and rocks this balloon imagining she hears her daughter’s voice; willing her return. Leona is a shell both her husband and her own mother – sincerely and naturally interpreted by Maggie McCourt – are desperate to reanimate whilst enveloped in their own pain.  Danny’s grief is compounded by the loss of not only his daughter but his now distant and accusatory wife. The dynamic between Jellicourse and Beckmann is unaffected and earnest throughout.

Danny’s brother Devlin is the only poorly defined character. This role would benefit from the straightforwardness reflected within the rest of the storyline. Not requiring mystery this potentially pivotal role felt tacked-on with a relationship and background that felt affected.

The relentless anguish within the story weighed heavily at the mid-point though a final twist relieved any numbness.   The Canadian playwright’s drama leaves little room for levity.  Humorous attempts are injected by the ghastly character of Lola (Mary Roscoe) visiting from POYAVC (parents of young accident victims of Canada) with the macabre puppetry of her own child’s demise.   Roscoe’s comic sense is deft and her talent surefooted but this dark humour generates little more than nervous giggles and wry smiles that alleviate tension.

Timing, delivery and performances are tight and painful; audience members were moved to tears both alongside and independently of the cast.  The confines of the Finborough intensify the drama and, despite challenges to movement and in particular the wheelchair, this production is tailor made for an intimate venue.

A raw powerful production perfectly summarised by my companion the next day stating he was “still mentally in that theatre”.

Until April 19th 2011

Finborough Theatre
118 Finboroough Road
London, UK, SW10 9ED

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