EFR - Reviews of Echoes

Echoes

Mon 8th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Ed Grimble

at 21:33 on 22nd Aug 2016

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It is so rare that a piece of theatre has the power to scare. Not unexpectedly shock, or make one wince from physical gore, but actually scare. To frighten a room full of adults, necks craned towards the stage as they are unable to turn away from what is being enacted before them. Living Record just about pull this off, however. ‘Echoes’ follows the events that unfold as father John returns to Helene and their young daughter following a nine year absence after he abandoned her. What follows inside the small isolated cottage forces the audience to question what and who is real, and brutally depicts a descent into madness and the degradation of a man.

Complex criticism and deconstruction aside, both Luke Barton and Jill Rutland (playing John and Helene) deserve praise for the sheer feat of endurance that this play is. Both are on stage for the full 55-minute run time, and neither get anything even close to a moment of respite. Both approach their roles with a wonderful gusto, and both have their separate moments in which they particularly impress. Rutland charts the trajectory of unstable mother figure to bestial sadist with a spine chilling potency. Her multi-roling, playing Helene and the couple's young daughter, is eery; Rutland lurches spasmodically between characters. Conversely, Barton controls every line of dialogue, sliding gradually from a confident, self-assured knight in shining armour, to a blood soaked and enucleated mess of a man.

I refuse to spoil the plot, but there are some serious criticisms that can be levelled against the script. Too often are lines produced which in no way hold any verisimilitude, instead descending into slightly incredulous poetic dialogue. Barton too, at times strays into an overly-enunciated style of delivery, as opposed to the detached, clear speech It is worth noting, however, that these only appear as glaring stumbles only when seen in relief to the rest of the performance.

Director Ross Drury certainly holds up his end of the bargain; he gets the most out of the two very talented actors, and Neil Smith’s script. Physical violence is usually where an audience’s suspension of disbelief is tested most. However, during the vicious and bloody dénouement of ‘Echoes’, Drury manages to sustain the illusion- the effects are chilling, and I spot more than one audience member squirming and turning away in their seat.

Hiccups in the script aside, ‘Echoes’ a very skilled piece of theatre which performs the almost impossible feat of delivering a genuinely frightening spectacle. This is sixty minutes of physical and emotional lacerations.

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Becky Wilson

at 23:36 on 22nd Aug 2016

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‘Echoes’ depicts the reunion of an estranged, severely damaged couple. Aptly advertised as a ‘domestic horror’, this hour-long dialogue soon deteriorates into an intensely visceral battle for dominance.

As the conversation unfolds, the characters are stripped back to their ugly animalistic core. This is a play which examines the bloody reality of motherhood, and the cold paternal imprints – echoes – on a child, which can never truly be eradicated. Piece by piece, a sickening cycle of domestic abuse and entrapment falls into place. ‘Echoes’ is a painfully vivid portrayal of the ways in which a human can be tortured into submission.

Jill Rutland, without a doubt, carries the burden of the performance on her narrow, but more than capable shoulders. Playing both mother and daughter, she executes her changes in physicality to absolute perfection. So convincingly creepy is her portrayal of a shy, young girl that I’m almost afraid that Rutland has been possessed by a demon.

Luke Barton’s performance, as the returning absentee father, is in contrast overly polished. His impassioned lines, like “God, you were never so alive with words”, lose some of their intended heat when enunciated in a stiff way. While this initially strikes me as a failure of Barton’s acting, such an icy composure does heighten Rutland’s brilliantly wild eyes and animal movements, by contrast. Ross Drury’s direction cleverly brings out the friction between his actors. In one particularly powerful scene the two face each other, slinking across the thrust stage like boxers weighing up their opponent, or predators about to pounce.

This play is constantly arresting. While the scenes of extreme violence are well-executed, there are other moments which are far more unnerving. With a flash of her knickers, Rutland hints at murky depths of sexual perversion; this is almost as disturbing as the moment at which the couple’s daughter is revealed (she’s been onstage the whole time). ‘Echoes’ even executes its infrequent but disarming flashes of humour to perfection.

Audiences of ‘Echoes’ will be disturbed and stimulated in equal measure. Grasping at the fragments of meaning handed down to us by this flawless acting is a challenge, but to access the play’s dark, animal heart is undoubtedly worth it.

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