fringe: shadows of angels

shadows of angelsI don't think I've EVER been as affected or moved by a piece of theatre as much as I was tonight by Shadows of Angels.

And I can't even exactly say what buttons it pushed, but I did find myself crying on and off during the drive home. So clearly it hit close to the bone.

It's an incredibly simple piece of theatre. Four interconnected monologues of four women whose paths cross and who are bound together by a common event during a hot Summer afternoon in 1929.

Director, Chris Saxon makes great use of the highly intimate nature of The Bakehouse's Studio stage, which is a tiny space. Although it's always a little bit confronting to find actors already on stage when you enter a venue, especially one so small, but it helps immerse the audience into their world immediately.

Speaking of their world, there's nothing on stage beyond a chair and scarcely any props to speak of, but the four actresses create a world on that stage with the help of some amazing lighting design is surprisingly real and incredibly vivid.

I also love the small moments of interlap as the next "Femme" (as they're described in the program... four Femme Fatale) appears on stage before the previous character's story ends. The new character never speaks until the previous one has finished and in all but one scene the two characters don't even acknowledge each other, but it's a beautiful way to move from one scene to another.

If I'm being honest, the one part of the play that didn't work for me was the character of Old Femme played by Rosemary Johns... not because it was somehow lacking, but the other three characters had some degree of sympathy to them, whereas I couldn't find that with her.

While the piece that opens the play, Good Femme, played by Kara Stacey Merrin is a brilliantly written piece, wonderfully acted by Merrin with an amazing rapid fire delivery and could easily exist as a tiny play in it's own right, it was the monologues by Man Femme (played by H. Clare Callow) and Pretty Femme (played by Erin Dewar) that set this piece of theatre apart.

Callow's woman posing as a man is masterfully done... in fact, if I hadn't double checked the program I may have convinced myself that she was actually playing a man instead of a woman surviving by passing as a man. There are also some beautifully poignant moments in that monologue.

But it's Dewar's unfortunate prostitute that is Shadows of Angels' crowning glory. She starts out bubbly and amusing, but as her piece progresses, she starts to unravel before your eyes and I think it's her final scene that affected me so much.

It's not a show that's going to send you out into the night feeling elated and upbeat about life, but it is a compelling piece of theatre, and one I highly recommend.

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