Collapsible review at Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh – ‘Breffni Holahan is mesmeric’
Essie is losing her grip. She’s lost her job and split with her girlfriend. She feels like one of those folding chairs.
Margaret Perry’s play about a woman coming apart transcends the limitations of the solo-show format. The writing is luminescent and often startling.
It’s the details that make it sing: the things Essie notices as she attends spirit-sapping job interview after job interview and endures passive-aggressive dinners with her well-meaning sister and her “punchable” boyfriend.
Thomas Martin, who also directed the magnificently unsettling Ross and Rachel in 2015, brings a similar sensibility to this production. He places Essie on a pedestal, designed by Alison Neighbour, so her feet don’t ever touch the ground. She looks like an exhibit. Every time she moves the pedestal crumbles a little.
Breffni Holahan is mesmeric as Essie. A little wide-eyed even in the beginning, her performance builds gradually in intensity. Her breathing quickens; her skin glistens. She pivots on her pedestal, struggling to maintain a facade of intactness and solidity as her world shrinks around her.
Perry writes with clarity and insight about mental unravelling but, like Holahan, she achieves a wonderful balancing act. In the last few minutes the play pulls out its trump card, a reminder that we’re not alone and that hope and help can come from the most unexpected places.
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