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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Theatre503 in association with Sheer Drop Theatre present

 

Valhalla

 

 

Writer – Paul Murphy

Director – Jo McInnes

Designer – Katie Lias

Lighting Designer – Nigel Edwards

Sound Designer – Becky Smith

 

Theatre503

 

30 September – 24 October 2015
 

 

 

 

Man (Paul Murphy) and Woman (Carolina Main) are both medical professionals. He’s a researcher on the brink of a breakthrough with trials he has been at the helm of and she is a GP on an indefinite break after a harrowing incident at work. A cleverly arranged set facilitates both their modern city abode and, shortly after the play begins, their stark Nordic escape. A stack of lockers in the corner of the room houses props (principally alcohol) and a table and two chairs are moved around through scenes to shift the dynamics of the conversations. White walls, mirrors and a total absence of anything personal on stage mean the focus is firmly on the fascinatingly complex marriage between Man and Woman and the tumultuous fallout of their ongoing discoveries about one another.

As a cruel Nordic winter sweeps in, the cracks in their relationship deepen. In their isolation, Man and Woman themselves become the biggest enemy of the tranquillity that they set out to find in the isolated village they escaped to from a chaotic and violent city. Valhalla is an accomplished journey through the physical, emotional and psychological way in which people at close quarters affect each other. Winner of the inaugural Theatre 503 playwriting Award, Murphy’s chaotic exploration of the intricacies of a relationship with layers of pain, mistrust and grief underpinning it is a gripping one.

Visually, lighting is used to stark effect, killing one scene then awakening the next. The blackouts are disquieting and as the themes deepen the match between lighting and subject matter proves a perfect twinning while the love–match in the play comes under increasing strain. The relationship between Man and Woman is forcefully realistic and intense. The additional consideration that the writer himself was forced to take one of the meaty roles in this wordy two–hander at the very last minute renders the dynamic achieved between the two nothing short of terrific.

Carolina Main is an astoundingly natural performer.  In Valhalla her stage presence draws you far from the theatre and into the room she’s acting at inhabiting. The script also has this magnificent quality. We don’t physically see the black sand of the beach Woman runs on or the volcanic backdrop that both attracts and repels the characters but they’re somehow as real as the pile of research papers which ominously litter almost every scene. In the scenes where Woman blusters in from the cold outdoors the atmosphere she draws in with her is as patent as the mystical vibes around the dead arctic fox she returns with on one such occasion.

If you don’t depart from this play feeling as startled and perplexed as I did I’ll be surprised. I walked in the wrong direction for ten minutes before getting myself together after leaving, thanks to Theatre503 once again bringing cutting–edge, provocative theatre to London fringe audiences.

 

Theatre503
The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW
Ages 12+
https://theatre503.com/ 
Tickets £15 (£12 concessions)
Box Office 020 7978 7040
 
 
 
 

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