Writer: Rachel Bellman
Director: Jasmine Teo
After an antisemitic attack lands Aunt Mirah in hospital, seventeen-year-old Leah returns to her house hoping to confront the perpetrator and exorcise the demons left behind. Longlisted for the Women’s Prize For Playwrighting, These Demons is a layered and tender exploration of family, the lasting impact of anger and Jewish folklore.
Leah is having a hard time at school. She’s having a hard time controlling her anger and she blames herself for her parents’ separation. Olivia Marcus brings all the awkward teenage angst required of this role, a constant force of hormonal outbursts, sullen angles, and cheeky defiance. Marcus’ performance is funny at times and incredibly moving at others, always true to life.
The familial chemistry between Marcus and Liv Andrusier, who plays Leah’s tightly-strung older sister, Danielle, is palpable and recognisable to anyone with a sibling. Danielle’s frustrations and trials assert themself through elegant writing and are just as engaging as the main plot line, which is already fighting itself for stage time. Ann Marcuson as Mirah is also fantastic and brings a real authenticity to the eccentric aunt in the woods.
The script, written by debut playwright Rachel Bellman, is clever and layered and probably trying to do a little too much. Running at a good 90 minutes Bellman packs in a whole host of themes: anxiety, bullying, sibling roles, divorce, anti-semitism, miscarriages, community and misogyny. It is at times a bit much, but Bellman does a great job of weaving these threads together and it makes for a really complex and well-executed story. Director Jasmine Teo also does well to maintain the pace and fluidity of what could otherwise be an overly convoluted production.
The design is almost there. Set by Sophie Firth is clearly conceptualised and lends itself to the three settings whilst leaning into the horror elements of comedy-horror. Sound by Niamh Gaffney is equally tongue-in-cheek and well-placed. Lights by Skylar Turnbull Hurd are sometimes a little muddled and impose themselves too heavily on a scene that is able to carry itself.
These Demons has a lot to say and is undoubtedly the best Jewish-Horror-Comedy-Coming-of-Age-Story on London stages right now.
Runs until 14th October 2023