As a crime fiction fan, and an ardent theatre goer, I pride myself on my ability to work things out, but Chew was simply a step too far for my brain. From the outset the staging created tension and suspense; something was definitely going to happen but what? Someone definitely had an ulterior motive but who? You can certainly see why this show won the London Horror Festival’s Playwright of the Year in 2015. The horror comes, not from overt guts and gore, but from the very real possibility that the mental health issues dealt with, and the consequences described, could arise in someone you know. The knowledge that under the ‘right’ circumstances this could actually happen creates far more tension than any classic view of horror could.
The sound design for the show was fantastic. The way in which it reflected the characters’ internal monologues added to the suspense whilst allowing for some sympathy with the disturbing actions of the characters within the play, produced by the realisation that the sense of confusion the sound was causing to us as an audience must be similar to that of the central characters.
Holly MacFarlane (Beth) gave the standout performance for me. Her account of an artist supposedly arriving in a mental health clinic to create a collage was truly convincing. An artist who had no idea what she was getting into, or did she? Mitch Howell’s intense performance as Dr Haynes only added to the sense of dread that the play instilled in me. His intense stare coupled with some very awkward eye contact made you wonder just what he was capable of, whilst Blair Robertson (Mark) added some much needed humour and to the play along with an outlook on life that we can all sympathise with.
There is so much I want to say about Chew but I fear anything more would give something away. Therefore, despite my relatively short review, I am going to leave you to see the show yourselves and see if you can do a better job than I did of guessing the end.
Review by Emily Diver
CHEW by Sarah Tejal Hamilton, is at the Etcetera Theatre 29th, 30th and 31st January 2016 at 9pm as part of the Black Box Festival.
“I tried to help you.. I found you in that room, your head keeping time against the concrete wall. There were so many like you, so many, a hundred clocks beating the seconds, each body a conflict zone.”
When Beth comes to help Dr Haynes cope with the fallout from a disastrous mission in Haiti, she has her own ideas about how to rescue the tortured professor – and things take a turn towards darkness.
Award-winning CHEW won the London Horror Festival 2015 short playwriting competition, and now steps up as a chilling full length play. This assured debut from playwright Sarah Tejal Hamilton takes inspiration from her experience as a war reporter and calls attention to the mistakes we seem compelled to repeat.
Directed by Rory Fairbairn
Dr Haynes – Mitch Howell
Beth – Holly McFarlane
Mark – Blair Robertson