They paved the stage with woodchip and paths of white quartz. From the first step, the first crunch of the lily-white stones, I am transported to the quiet paths of cemeteries up and down the country, the courtyards of crematoriums. It is a simple, yet very clever staging ploy, and one that places the performance instantly.
He and She enter, wet from the rain I can now hear throughout the show, omnipresent. Damp, not quite prepared, the way one is at these most awkward of meetings.
Poison is a show about grief, the aching grief of what remains of a family, of grief that shrieks inside but is never allowed to distort the expression, or the vocal chords, the quiet grief of meaningless tragedy.
I am struck that it is a white person’s grief. Reminiscent of silent funerals I have attended, where grief is unfathomable but there is accorded no outlet, not now, not in the day, perhaps later in the night, perhaps never. Perhaps we let it grow inside until it is a cold stone, a boulder, bigger than our insides, and impossible to shift. We don’t have wakes here, the way other cultures cry and sing and drink to excess, and wail and pay tribute and set a vigil.
Silence rules here, this internal silence that sends a woman mad, but not quite all the way over the line. A self-imposed vigil for the dead.
There were two moments that really caught my breath. When She lay on the floor wrapped in a tiny ball, a damp rag turned inside out. When was the last time you cried like that? I am sure every audience member who has felt that grief can remember the last time they too visited that strange wrenching place.
And my favourite part, when He sat on the floor and came down to her level. The awkwardness of the pose, which was once so familiar. The lending of the jacket, the passing of cheese. The wine for His mother. Her acceptance of these small graces. This, for the first time, really embodied the humanity of these characters, the complications of relationships that never ran their course. Perhaps they never truly can.
There was something so regular, so everyday about that courteous gesture. All evening we have seen the reasons for the demise of their relationship, the heckling from Her, the foot-in-mouth from Him, the almost-deliberate misconstruing from Her.
The revelation of the lie was almost an anti-climax, he wasn’t angry, in fact it seemed he almost expected it. I did cry, it’s true, and I am reminded of the catharsis of art, of the reason why we tell stories like this, unpalatable, uncomfortable, unwanted, but necessary.
In spite of the tragedy revealed , Poison is a siren call to love, how desperately we need it, want it, desire it, require it, fleeting though it may be.
Metro Arts – Poison // 9 – 19 May 2018 – Presented by EG & Metro Arts
Key Creatives //
Playwright / Lot Vekemans
English translation / Rina Vergano
Director / Catarina Hebbard
Actor and Producer / Elise Greig
Actor / Paul Bishop