'The Slip' mesmerises at The Courtyard

By Jane Sacree

image002It takes a lot, lately to tempt me out on a Saturday evening. The days are short and as the dark settles around me I am magnetically drawn to me sofa, curtains closed, fire on and Strictly on the TV. But I do enjoy live theatre and The Courtyard is a lovely place to be when it's full to capacity with and excited crowd, some there to enjoy the latest pantomime, and some there, like me, to experience The Slip, a revealing and mesmerising play from Reaction Theatre Makers.

The programme handed to us as we arrive explained clearly what was to come. "originally inspired by the Marge Piercy's novel Women on the edge of time, The Slip tells the tale of zoe who whilst battling with anxiety and in turn with her marriage, experiences the future of the very town in which she lives. Lundwich sits on the coast; it is at risk of collapsing into the sea. The Slip explores stormy relationships and tempestuous seas; it questions the breakdown of communication and ask 'what if? what could happen next? What does the future holds?."

The play opens with a DJ transmitting a radio show, weaving a spell around this intimate theatre and drawing everyone into Zoe's live. From the outset it was clear she had a problem. She portrayed a woman striving to preserve the illusion of normality but for whom life had...slipped. There had clearly been other slips and the tension 'slipping' can evoke in relationships was played out beautifully by Zoe's husband, Liam , as in turn he was cautious, angry and then relieved as he reassured himself his wife wasn't after all, 'on one', his term for a bout of depression.

The couple have decided to go to the cinema and Zoe persuades a reluctant Liam to call at an art exhibition on the way. A bored Liam hardly contains his disinterest and leave Zoe to ponder further as he rushes on to secure cinema tickets. A tumultuous seascape fascinates Zoe and she is moved to make her own. This, and intermittent radio broadcasts, become central to the play's theme as Zoe wavers between her experiences of what's real, and what it feels like when she is indeed 'on one'.

To me this play was magical. If the soundtrack had been available on CD I would have brought it. I loved the tiny set which, although hardly changed, began as the kitchen, became an art gallery and was then the swirling backdrop in the depths of the sea.The careful way the cast moved around this tiny set added something too. It made the support Electra offered Zoe much more intimate because they were in such a confined space, but at the same time made Electra's exaggerated movement ever more powerful.

If I'm honest it was a huge relief to understand the enough people experiences varying degrees of slippage for a play to be written about it, I don't happen to slip in an out of tumultuous seascapes but there were many references which spoke directly to my heart and left me with a sense of wonder that, thankfully, it's not just me. Not everyone agreed. The play lost a few who didn't come back for the second half. But one lady who turned to my husband and asked him what he thought of the play went on to say she thought it was beautifully written. From the enthusiastic applause of the remaining audience I would say they all agreed.