The Wasp review at Trafalgar Studios – ‘excellent’

Laura Donnelly and MyAnna Buring in The Wasp at Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Tristram Kenton Laura Donnelly and MyAnna Buring in The Wasp at Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s two-hander – a transfer from Hampstead’s Downstairs space – is sprung like a bear trap, a play with very sharp teeth. The opening scenario is not unfamiliar. Two women who haven’t seen each other since they were teenagers meet in a coffee shop. It initially appears that their lives have panned out in very different ways. Carla is pregnant with baby number five, still smoking heavily and struggling to make ends meet, while Heather exudes a sense of understated glamour; she’s happily married, successful, all she’s lacking is a child.

It soon becomes apparent that Heather has a proposition for Carla, even if it’s perhaps not one Carla – or the audience – anticipated. Just when you feel you have sense of the characters and what they want from one another, the writing shifts. It’s a weapon of a play in this respect: the rules keep changing as rug pull follows rug pull. Lloyd Malcolm really knows how to press an audience’s buttons and the sense of tension, of jeopardy, is palpable.

Director Tom Attenborough also knows exactly what he’s doing in terms of the play’s shock value and there are some genuinely gasp-inducing moments here. Though a tad on the nose in places, the writing is eloquent about violence and inheritance, about the damage that can be done by bullying, and the way such wounds can fester – for years, in some cases.

Both MyAnna Buring and Laura Donnelly are absolutely excellent, embracing their very different roles wholeheartedly, with Donnelly just edging it as the increasingly unstable Heather.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
A taut, brilliantly calibrated two-hander which takes pleasure in shocking its audience