There’s an air of familiarity for people who have been in the entertainment industry in this narrative. Global pandemic or not, supply always exceeds demand, or at least it seems that way, and so Emily Bruni’s actor character finds herself working in a shop for some time – for her agent to ring is a relatively rare occurrence. In some ways, she reveals an awful lot about herself and her life, as well as the circumstances surrounding the death of Peter, the director of a play she is in. But in other ways, some cards are still held close to the character’s chest, and the story is complex enough for there to be a number of reasons why the show’s director is no longer alive.
Some subtle lighting changes are just about all there is, visually speaking. Other than a chair, the stage is bare: the production, therefore, relies heavily – no, entirely – on the art of storytelling. Humour comes usually in the form of sarcasm and/or cynicism, with the character providing wry and detailed observations: there are times when not much is left to the imagination.
The audition process for the play she eventually gets cast in is far from straightforward, while an audition for a completely different role has much to say, between the lines, about attitudes towards physical appearance. The play isn’t preachy, but subtly raises questions about why it is, for instance, that people are called up for auditions if a film’s production team already have a certain ‘look’ in mind that is quite different from that of the auditionees: isn’t that, in essence, an utter waste of everyone’s time?
After a particularly valuable and unique item is stolen from the shop the character works in, she spots it on someone’s person and sets about retrieving it. Spoiler alert: she succeeds. And the method by which she does so made me chuckle. In many ways, what goes on behind closed doors in a stage show can be hugely revelatory to those of us who don’t tread the boards. I’d give examples but that really would be giving too much away.
Bruni’s delivery is clear and engaging. I’m not sure how parts of Matt Wilkinson’s script would come across to anyone who hasn’t seen Psycho. While there’s no getting away from the production being ‘drama about drama’, there’s a freshness to this piece of theatre, forthright in its opinions on the theatrical world and its treatment of actors of a certain age profile. I recall an actor telling me a few years ago that she was struggling to get acting work as she was (at the time) too old to play the younger parts and too young to play the older parts. The show does not present straightforward solutions (perhaps because there aren’t any), and this is, in the end, a thoughtful and entertaining play.
Review by Chris Omaweng
From her initial police interview, through the world of her flat, shop work, auditions, to landing – against all odds – the role of Marion Crane in the director’s stage adaptation of Hitchcock’s iconic film, ‘Psycho’, ‘Psychodrama’ is filled with smart takes on what it means to be middle-aged and female in an industry captivated by stardust and beauty.
A profound, all-consuming emotional journey, confronting obsession, loss and self worth, it is enhanced by a glorious soundscape by Gareth Fry (The Encounter, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Evening Standard multiple award winner) that includes references to Bernard Herrmann’s stunning original ‘Psycho’ score alongside other eclectic musical influences from rock ‘n’ roll to Disney animation.
Psycho Productions and Cusack Projects Ltd in association with HighTide present
PSYCHODRAMA by Matt Wilkinson
with Emily Bruni
design James Turner / light Elliot Griggs / sound Gareth Fry / director Matt Wilkinson
Booking to Saturday 3 July at Never For Ever, Kentish Town, London NW5