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The Wasp at The Hen and Chickens Theatre | Review

What begins as a conversation between two people who haven’t seen each other for some years becomes something altogether more sinister. It’s somewhat contrived, too, with more happening at Heather’s (Jhenifer Acacia) house in the course of an evening than would reasonably be expected – but then, perhaps, a similar conclusion could be reached about a half-hour episode of a television soap opera. Heather meets Carla (Jennifer Thornton), and it’s not quite clear, at least to me, even by the end, if she really was the class bully, or just someone who inadvertently had a substantial impact on Heather’s teenage years.

The Wasp - Credit Alex Walton.
The Wasp – Credit Alex Walton.

There’s also a hefty sum of cash on offer in return for a dastardly deed that will take place over one night. This makes The Wasp sound like Fatal Attraction – this play doesn’t have (or need) seduction, though the moral questions are nonetheless similar: to what extent should someone do something totally improper in return for a life-changing sum of money? That isn’t all, however, and in under seventy-five minutes this production explores childhood memories and the lasting impact even seemingly routine words and actions can have long into someone’s adult life.

That the pair have not met for some years is crucial, if only because it gives credibility to the retelling of stories from their school days that would have been superfluous, or even redundant, had they maintained contact consistently over the years. Carla is expecting her fifth child, and Heather has yet to have her first – not that she hasn’t been trying. But that isn’t the salient point, or so Heather asserts, in a narrative that becomes more about redressing the balance of power that was apparently established in the playground: the quiet and timid one has come out of her shell and is, although extremely belatedly, pushing back against the loud and brash bully.

It is tempting to think this is a good thing, but the play makes clear this is not the whole story. Carla makes several good points, one of which compares the impulsive and reactionary behaviour of a child to that of carefully calculated and premeditated actions in adulthood. The production puts its faith in the script, and the set leaves much to the audience’s imagination, mercifully sparing patrons from some odd images on the wall of Heather’s front room, which she shares with (off-stage) husband Simon. There could, I think, have been a little more of an indication that Heather lives in a well-furnished middle-class home, but again, the dialogue makes that perfectly clear in any event.

There are some good plot twists to maintain interest, including one just before the end that might well have come from an Agatha Christie novel. The show does, admittedly, stray into melodrama in its closing scene, as Heather rather unsubtly unpacks what is ‘really’ going on. Other than that, the dramatic tension is palpable in this intriguing narrative that cleverly underlines the old adage that money doesn’t buy happiness.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Meet Heather and Carla. Both went to school together; both grew up on extremely different sides of the track, both remember the past. 20 years on and Heather asks Carla to meet for a coffee and catch-up. After some idle chit chat and trip down memory lane the two women are beginning to wonder why they met up.
Then suddenly, Heather offers Carla a bag of cash and a proposition that will change their lives forever…

Lead roles performed by Jennifer Thornton as CARLA and Jhenifer Acacia as HEATHER.

BOLD HOUSE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS
The Wasp
By Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
1st – 5th February 2022
Hen & Chickens Theatre, Islington N1, 2NA
https://www.unrestrictedview.co.uk/

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