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Possession – The Space | Review

There are quite a few disturbing elements in this show, which for me raised more questions than it provided answers. Zelda (Claire Morgan) and Kurt (Arran Hawkins) are in temporary accommodation somewhere on Dartmoor – Zelda has an art exhibition opening in Exeter the day after the night in which the play’s events transpire. Set entirely in their front room, if it wasn’t in real-time, it felt like it was. In essence, theirs is an extremely toxic relationship, and while there are attempts at dramatic tension, the narrative ultimately descends into the shallow depths of soap opera-style dynamics, complete with yelling, walking out the front door without explanation, storming back in again without explanation, and domestic violence.

Possession at The Space. Photo credit: J Housecroft.
Possession at The Space. Photo credit: J Housecroft.

It seems to be an example of what can happen when a relationship goes sour, but because both parties have put a lot of love and effort into one another, it is not as simple as walking away. It is perhaps easy to conclude, from the outside looking in, that both of them are better off going their separate ways, but the ties that bind them are considerable. The slightly echoey acoustics of the venue didn’t help when it came to speaking quickly, albeit at conversational volume, and also meant that some of the shouted lines couldn’t be deciphered in their entirety, at least not by me.

Because the relationship is so deep and entwined, I found it difficult to properly comprehend the unspoken messages between them. “Tonight is the night,” Kurt declares, and Zelda appears to understand, even responding with a chart music lyric in jest (from the Spice Girls’ ‘2 Become 1’, if you really must know) though I can’t have been the only one wondering, “the night for what?” Kurt is obsessed with a manuscript of some kind containing the writings of John Dee, the court astronomer to Elizabeth I, which he was overly reliant on to determine both his and Zelda’s destiny.

He doesn’t read any of the manuscripts out loud, so it’s not clear what preoccupied him to the point where he refuses to allow Zelda to go to bed for the night unless certain rituals and what they both refer to as ‘games’ are completed. Kurt’s forceful nature makes him thoroughly dislikeable, although Zelda is hardly a saint, taking photographs of him without his consent – the eventual aim behind this being even more ethically and morally dubious.

It is a somewhat intriguing character study into a relationship power play. Both actors do very well with what they’re given. But so much goes unexplained, and I felt as though I needed to have read a book or two about occultism before seeing the show to even begin to grasp the details of Kurt’s earnest sayings. How much of it was really necessary? As Zelda put it, “You don’t need incantations for me to stay”, though perhaps Kurt needed them to maintain his perception of being in control.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Performed by Claire Morgan and Arran Hawkins

Directed by Danielle McIlven
Produced by Rebecca Megson-Smith
Written by Darkstuff Productions: Phil John, Rebecca Megson-Smith and Simon-Harvey Williams

In a remote cottage in the heart of Dartmoor, two lovers celebrate an upcoming debut art exhibition. As a storm outside intensifies the late-night drink, drugs and occult speculations mount, the thin line between love and possession is crossed.

Possession is a fast-paced darkly funny look at how love can both free us to reach our highest potential, but also bind us to the safety to well-worn narratives.

Darkstuff Productions in association with Moveable Type Theatre presents
POSSESSION
The Space
2 to 5 July 2024

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