I suppose I was very lucky at school. Although being short, wearing glasses and having ‘FA Cup’ ears, I don’t remember ever being bullied about theses things. Though I did get my ears fixed and once ‘lost’ a pair of NHS glasses as I hated them, so maybe things did get said after all. The point is, that whatever may have happened it was obviously pretty mild and so I’ve forgotten about it. I’m one of the lucky ones. For some people school is a place they go to to be tortured either mentally, verbally or physically. For them, school doesn’t end when they hit 16 and leave. For them, these events may live in their mind for years to come, and this is the premise behind Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play The Wasp at the Jermyn Street Theatre.
Outside a nondescript coffee shop, two women sit and drink tea. Heather (Selina Giles) is well dressed and poised, whilst Carla (Lisa Gorgin) is, not to put too fine a point on it, the ultimate definition of a pregnant chav. In appearance and manner, they are poles apart but they are united in a shared history. Twenty years ago, they were students at the same school. As they share memories, it is obvious that their time at school was very different and there had been some major league bullying going on. Still, that was all in the past. The two girls have grown into women and, have matured so all can be forgiven and forgotten can’t it?
From the start, I had a feeling I was going to enjoy The Wasp and I was right. Small, the stage at the Jermyn Street Theatre may be but Set Designer Mike Leopold managed to make it seem much larger – but still keep the intimacy – with his really impressive set. The story itself could be described as a psychological thriller and certainly, there were a few twists and turns from the opening scene to the wholly unexpected climax of the show. However, I do feel that at times the first act was slightly wordy and things did seem to switch between reminiscences, accusations and ‘chumminess’ in a rather random way. Apart from that, the story itself was really gripping.
Turning to the actors and full praise to both ladies for a first rate performance. Lisa Gorgin was the epitome of a working class girl, with a terrible back story. Carla obviously struggles with her multiple children and a drunken husband to make ends meet and is constantly hoping that something would happen to take her away from the humdrum life she led. There were quite a few moments during both acts – but especially the second – when Carla’s tale was told simply by the posture and the movement of the eyes and Lisa brought them out superbly. I don’t think there was any time when I looked at Lisa and could not have taken a stab at what she was thinking.
Selina Giles was the total opposite. Her Heather was virtually always a model middle-class woman. Her voice, gentle and unemotional giving no indication of the thoughts inside her head. Selina’s voice, coupled with her clothing and physical posture served to reassure a nice theatre going audience that, although people like Carla do exist – and one should do everything one can to help them (up to a point) – the world is safe in the hands of Heather and her ilk. However, Like so many such women, especially in literature, be very careful if you cross her and, without giving too much away, Selina really manages to cover the range of emotions and characteristics that Heather requires. Individually then, the actors are really brilliant and together they make their characters quite scarily real to watch and travel with over the length of the narrative.
Director Anna Simpson really has done a good job by not doing too much. There is little movement of the actors during the first two scenes and that is exactly as it should be. From a logical point of view, a 7-month pregnant woman and a middle-class lady having tea, are really not that animated and so the direction is just right. When movement does occur, it is slow and deliberate and, as with the dialogue, sometimes used to throw another red herring at the audience.
So, to sum up. Apart from a couple of issues I found with the story, The Wasp is a first-rate psychological thriller. Being me, I correctly worked out about a third of the final ending but the other two-thirds took me completely by surprise. The production is superbly put together and really makes one think about the past and its influence on the present and the future.
Review by Terry Eastham
Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, The Wasp is an electric thriller asking how far beyond the playground we carry our childhood experiences and what lengths we are willing to go to overcome them.
Why do hurt people hurt people? Can we transcend and forgive others for the misguided wrongs done to us in childhood?
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, a husband and a beautiful home.
And yet, here they are in a cafe having tea and making awkward conversation. That is until Heather presents Carla with an unexpected proposition.
Playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Director Anna Simpson
Designer Mike Leopold
Cast: Lisa Gorgin and Selina Giles
Producer Two Shillings and Six Pence, in association with the Jermyn Street Theatre
The Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6ST
Performance Dates July 31 st 2017 – August 12th, 2017
Running Time 120 mins