A young woman leaves an unnamed war-riven Slavic country for a new life in Dublin. But she falls through the cracks, ends up homeless and sleeping in hostels, invisible to some, too visible to others, vulnerable, a target. People throw chips at her in the street, but when she asks for money people cease to see her.
Notch is a play about damage and life on the periphery. Playwright and performer Danaja Wass’ solo show highlights how unsafe it is for a young woman on the streets and how her character’s accent – her foreignness – further marginalises her. Broken into chapters, it’s a dense, knotty piece of writing that at times strives for the Joycean and contains some vivid imagery. Wass is good at clotty, bodily stuff and inky humour, but as the protagonist’s mental state unravels, the writing sometimes strays over the line from the intentionally disorientating into something more tangled and impenetrable.
Madelaine Moore’s production intersperses flickering television images – clips of daytime talk shows, snippets of Pavarotti – with video footage of Wass sinking her fingers into her skin and distorting her face, and the woman with whom she is fascinated to the point of obsession.
Wass has an engaging energy and expressiveness as a performer of her own material, but the way the play wades into sexual assault and suicide feels like an onslaught. There’s little breathing space. No doubt people’s lives do spiral in this way – isolation, indignity, breakdown – but, after a while, it starts to feel exhausting.