DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

One Under – Leeds Playhouse

Writer: Winsome Pinnock

Director: Amit Sharma

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

One Under consists of a tight and highly emotional script by Winsome Pinnock. Pinnock weaves a complex web of interwoven vignettes which raise as many questions about the characters’ reality as they answer. The short sharp shock treatment given is at times a tad confusing as we try to grasp who is who and why they behave in such a manner. Amit Sharma’s direction is sharp and inventive while the ensemble performance is precise and emotional.

Stanley J. Browne, as Cyrus, plays a train driver coming to terms with having run over a body on the tracks. We really feel for his desperate attempts to cope with the tragedy’s aftershock and the way it triggers personal traumas for him.

Reece Pantry, as Sonny, is even more complicated and confusing as we never know what is his paranoid delusion or true to life experience. But the most powerful performances come from Shenagh Govan (Mags and Nella) and Evlyne Oyedokun (Zoe) who really have incredible stage presence and maintain an immense intensity. Also Clare-Louise English’s Christine is convincing as the community heroine whose laundrette has become a place for all and sundry to take refuge. But it is unclear exactly how she and Sonny become one-night-stand lovers. Perhaps the idea is that Sonny just one last jump in the sack before his almost predestined leap on the train track. It is confusing as everything is kind of a backwards narrative and sliced into short chunks at that.

The design is simple but effective and one key point, as in any Graeae production, is the way the surtitles are embedded into the piece. In this case the text is in the form of a train information screen which is clearly fitting for the plot.

One reservation though is that the frequent scene changes are sometimes so abrupt that you hardly have time to take in the deep emotional impact of the action. But on a more positive note Pinnock brings up the taboo issue of mental health problems that have disastrous consequences for Sonny.

Many may find the piece quite disturbing but this is by no means gratuitous, it merely tells it like it is. Overall this is a difficult show to sit through but the end result is both cathartic and thought-provoking. If anything, though, the highly emotive narrative could have been better paced and more clearly explanatory.

Runs until 9 November 2019 | Image: Patrick Baldwin

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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