Psychodrama – Traverse Theatre

Written and Directed by Matt Wilkinson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“What he did was not just a crime against humanity… it was a crime against Theatre”.

So, the question is, what the hell did he do?

In this remarkably astute one-woman monologue, performed by Emily Bruni, age is the unfortunate reminding factor – inescapable for a once prolific actress struggling to maintain a day-to-day life as the phone stops ringing and jobs dry up. A magnetically addictive seventy-minute performance, Psychodrama delivers a precise blow to the industry’s archaic attitudes and malign grievances toward women of a ‘certain age’

But there is hope; at first. The call eventually comes through, and the part couldn’t be more attractive – a stage reinterpretation of Alfred Hitchcock’s tour de force Psycho, the rub? It’s being assembled by an infamously volatile – and if we can trust our narrator – thuggish director Peter. Matt Wilkinson’s writing is a crisp, a no-holds-bar strike at the nature of the industry and the thoughtless devastation its impact has on those surrounding it, and sacrifice something to ‘make it’.

Not just a theatre lovers’ production, the subtle nods to the filmmakers’ own brushes with abuse, swept aside for his ‘genius’, reoccur in small, almost insignificant subplots that aid in furthering the understanding of this supposed snapping point. From the inescapable tirade of impressive sound design from Gareth Fry to the visual clues and snippets, the vast intelligence behind the commentary constructed – subtle, yet sharp, allows Bruni the freedom with which to thread it all together with a superbly compelling performance.

It’s a dangerous move, to place a potentially unreliable narrator in the hands of such mercurial disdain, but the sculpting of the script enables this dance with liberty on a knife-edge of respect, toying with the audience’s expectations right to the very last line. The threat of tragedy is around every conceivable corner, following our introductory questioning of Bruni’s character by police, to the ‘research’ and private, extreme rehearsals solely for the two of them. The building anxiety and pressure are executed from Bruni with a fervour intensity where wellbeing is laid to the side, and things go dark very quickly.

The crushing reality is that in this thriller, this whodunnit, of what Peter did and how he died is precisely a reflection of reality, this is the surface scratch of the issue. There is no finality. Not for the decades of pressure and systemic abuse by men with influence. Not yet. But this is her story, and Bruni takes a stand for thousands, millions of unheard voices this evening. 

Wilkinson’s unapologetic script offers a sliver of the harshness of abuse and crime within this and any unbalanced industry. It encourages a frank, if brutal, prying of the world we inhabit, where too many have turned a blind eye too.

The only crime proved this evening, is by those not in the audience.

‘Crisp, Sharp, Merciless’

Psychodrama runs at The Traverse Theatre until August 28th.

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

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