Writer: Stephanie Ridings
Director: Jonathan V McGrath
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
The internet is a scary place. For every funny cat video, and Stephanie Ridings has plenty of those, there’s much darker content such as sites allowing you to become a pen pal with a prisoner on death row in America.
It’s a topic Ridings explores in her one-woman show The Road To Huntsville as she unravels the tale of women who fall in love with the men waiting for their execution in Texas.
It’s a dark, and at times depressing tale but in Ridings hands, one handled with care and compassion. She takes not only a look at what drives these women, but also her own foray into the world of manipulation and obsession.
While Ridings looks at the process of the death penalty with an initial clinical detachment, as the piece progresses the emotional cost for the families and loved ones comes to the fore. It is though the family of the perpetrator that is the focus here, somewhat ignoring the pain of the victim’s loved ones.
It is a slight imbalance that sits uncomfortably in an otherwise carefully constructed tale, aided by an effective use of projection that turns this travelogue/documentary into something much more moving.
Ridings is an engaging storyteller, her honest performance resonant and naturalistic and somewhat at odds with the theatrical staging. That honesty though is refreshing and it is easy to believe the rapidly spiralling obsession playing out in front of us. How much is fact and how much fiction is never fully revealed, but regardless of the provenance this well-constructed monologue entertains as well as engaging the mind.
Reviewed on 6 June 2017 | Image: Graeme Braidwood
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