The King’s Head Theatre is currently hosting Playmill, a three-week season of new writing from emerging companies. Playmill’s programme hosts 35 plays, whether comedy, drama or storytelling, that provide a strong platform for the female voice.
Playwright Joanne Fitzgerald’s new play, Dark Arts, is a two-hander that explores a moment of deep emotional pain in the life of a despondent Em (Wallis Hamilton Fenton), along with an intervention from Lugh (Orla Sanders) a visitor from the afterlife that interrupts a near-fatal action.
Hamilton Fenton’s character Em is introduced to us as a young woman who cannot bear to go on. She’s just returned from work, but her use of body language as she enters her flat, and the sounds she emits, signal that she is in deep despair. The accoutrements that surround her, a knife, a hangman’s noose, suggest she is preparing to take her own life. And then there is a loud electrical zapping and a flickering of lamplight, reminiscent of old 1940s Hollywood films, such as the bleak Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the audience is tipped off that an other-worldly being is about to enter the room.
Orla Sanders Lugh is herself a dark angel, a criss-cross between a character that is welcome both in Hades and in Heaven. The sometimes angry, sometimes bleak banter that ensues between the two characters is also replete with a good deal of humour, but this went largely unnoticed throughout the piece. However, both Hamilton Fenton and Sanders are accomplished actors with strong physical presence and much of their movements around each other hint at Anna Marshall’s directorial influence.
Dark Arts is more a play working its way through a creative process than a finished product. It has lots to say about the existential position of the human subject, how none of us are exempt from periods of abject self-doubt, despair and thoughts of suicide. Ultimately, the work reaffirms the resilience of the human spirit, the importance of communicating our fears and disappointments, and for Em, the colour and texture of paint, and the process of art-making that allows her to stick it out for another day.
Review by Loretta Monaco
At The King’s Head 8 July for One performance only
One very bad awful Friday night Em decides she’s had enough. She’s failing at life, at work, at painting, and can’t go on. She has tools at the ready, a knife in her hand – this is it; she’s going to do it. But someone appears in her flat at the wrong moment, claiming to be a God by the name of Lugh, waiting to take her away, or maybe convince her to do otherwise.
DARK ARTS is a new play exploring the reasons why we are driven to make art even when it makes us feel like giving up; and somehow finding a way to keep going, with or without supernatural intervention.
Em – WALLIS HAMILTON FENTON
Lugh – ORLA SANDERS
Producer – JOANNE FITZGERALD
Set Design – JO BRIGHT
Sound Design – WILFRED PETHERBRIDGE
BY JOANNE FITZGERALD
DIRECTED BY ANNA MARSHALL
Emerging playwright Joanne Fitzgerald’s exciting new play debuts at King’s Head Theatre Playmill Festival 2018.