This thriller play is intense, absorbing and gripping theatre, with dark humour in abundance.
At times The Wasp is so naturalistic in its style of conversation, it’s almost like the television series The Office, where those none the wiser thought there may have been at least an element of spontaneity about it, but in fact absolutely everything is scripted and planned down to the last detail. Two-handers can go either way – this one comes up trumps, thanks to a solid script from Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, and assured performances from Myanna Buring as Carla and Laura Donnelly as Heather.
The narrative suffers slightly from what has become a borderline formulaic method in modern plays, where things are ticking along before a critical incident occurs suddenly, which changes the course of the characters’ lives considerably. But The Wasp is deeper than that, and once the first bombshell drops, there are numerous twists and turns in the plot, maintaining intrigue from start to finish. I couldn’t have predicted the ending in a million years, but it’s a perfectly feasible one.
There’s a distinctly British sense of humour on behalf of both characters, even (or rather, especially) as the story grows increasingly darker. Had Noel Coward still be around I can imagine he may have come up with something similar to The Wasp. We don’t quite have the clipped tones of, say, Hay Fever or Private Lives, but the class differences remain distinct.
The language gets extremely colourful in places – and rather unnecessarily so, though to be fair there are people out there whose sole conversational adjective would appear to be ‘f—ing’. The play relies so very heavily on dialogue: the first act consists entirely of the two ladies in conversation at a coffee shop, and yet it was all highly compelling. But even when no words were spoken, in what turned out to be an obscenely long scene change, the way in which the said scene change was done was both sublime and harrowing.
Thankfully, things never become melodramatic, even when a sizeable number of people in the audience audibly gasp at a plot twist. There’s a change of pace in the final act, with a monologue that rattles on and on, as Heather goes into painstaking specificity about what are, when it boils down to it, first world problems. Again, it’s all irresistibly interesting to listen to: the phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is systematically demolished. If you’d like something quirky and different, this is definitely a show to have on your radar.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The Wasp Overview
By Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Directed by Tom Attenborough
‘Look, I don’t even remember talking to you after Year Eight so whatever you think I did was probably someone else’
Heather and Carla haven’t seen each other since school. Their lives have taken very different paths – Carla lives a hand to mouth existence while Heather has a high-flying career, husband and a beautiful home. And yet, here they are in a café having tea and making awkward conversation. That is until Heather presents Carla with a bag containing a significant amount of cash and an unexpected proposition…
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s electric thriller asks how far beyond the playground we carry our childhood experiences and to what lengths some people are willing to go to in order to come to terms with them.
Booking to Saturday 16th January 2016