Image: Hope Theatre
Madelaine - Emily Arden
Olive - Amy Newton
Bing - Alex Shenton
Mae - Fiz Marcus
Various - Nathan Plant
Various - Susanna Wolff
Various - Bruce Kitchener
Various - Melissa Dalton
Flycatcher is a darkly comic thriller, which follows a web-woven world, where no one is seen for who they really are:
Madelaine is an awkward waitress with a buried past.
Mae is a forgotten grandmother, who only wants some attention.
Bing is a happy-go-lucky salesman, wanting to spread the American dream.
Olive is a successful but emotionally distant art gallery owner,
These lives will come together when Madelaine tries to pull Bing into her world.
However, when Bing sets his sights on Olive, no one and nothing will stop Madelaine from luring any unsuspecting victims into her own psychological traps.
And so unfolds a complex and extraordinary series of events, all cunningly orchestrated by Madelaine and geared to, bit by bit, draw them all under the same roof.
These schemes are at once hilarious and heart-breaking, but the closer they all become, the more each of their secrets emerge to cause the inevitable and catastrophic clash of identity.
"What's going on?"
That's the prime question that might well be on the tip of your tongue, even after only a few minutes of watching this play from Gregg Masuak.
And, by the interval, you may not be very much wiser.
A plethora of characters, scenes that tumble into each other with a rapidity that makes them nigh-on impossible to count and a story that seems as elusive as the tooth fairy, all contrive to stretch one's credulity and scramble one's logic and understanding.
From left: Fiz Marcus, Alex Shenton, Emily Arden, Amy Newton
You can probably grasp the idea that this is not an 'ordinary' play with a clear, lucid and progressive narrative in what one might call the normal sense (if there is such a thing) where characters do things that fit neatly into a developing storyline.
Now all that may seem confusing and you might already be erasing Flycatcher from your list of tickets to buy ... but don't, at least not yet.
Actually, there are at least two compelling reasons why you might want to see this show.
First, Mr Masuak, who directs his own play here, has managed to assemble a top-notch cast who all turn-in finely-crafted and highly watchable performances.
And second, the play is also very funny ... in the off-beat, comedic sense, that is.
Now back to the story ...
The problem for the audience is that it unfolds in pieces - a bit like completing a jig-saw - and we meet different characters in different situations, so we're rarely sure just what is happening and why.
Now that's actually not so unusual in either stage plays, films or television dramas, but here it seems a deliberate ploy to add to the thriller element - and forces us to inject some effort into watching events as they unfold.
Image: Emily Arden as Madelaine
For a while, we don't even know the characters' names, but eventually we learn that the central figure in the play is called Madelaine, who seems to have a penchant for the grotesque and is attracted to an insurance salesman called Bing who is obsessed with Grace Kelly.
However, Bing becomes involved with art gallery owner Olive, so Madelaine connives to lure them both to her house by burning down theirs!
The other main character is Mae (wonderfully played by Fiz Marcus) who seems to be Madelaine's grandmother - though I don't think that is ever made explicit - but then there's not much here that is.
We find Mae in a variety of situations including one where she chains herself to the shelving in Sainsbury's as a protest about ketchup being on higher shelves and inaccessible to shrivelled older people.
Fiz Marcus as Mae
Sentenced to undertake therapy, Mae encounters an abrupt, blunt and unsympathetic psychologist more concerned with her own lack of sexual pleasure.
In other scenes, we find two beauticians baffled about Madelaine's desire for brown lipstick and her ignorance of the essential need to apply various cosmetics to her face.
While Olive and Bing are dancing, two men are throttling each other in the background - then break into a dance too.
And when Madelaine asks her cynical PA what she looks like, the staggering reply is "Bambi's mother".
There's also an inventively humorous taxi ride scene, during which Olive and Bing discover their homes have been destroyed.
That's a flavour of some of the events in this extraordinary play that is probably - almost certainly - not going to be appreciated by everyone, even stalwarts of the theatre-going public.
Indeed, I noticed one couple didn't make it back after the interval, but that still left the majority who did, and they laughed a lot throughout the piece, as I did too.
I particularly enjoyed Amy Newton's stylish work as Olive, and Emily Arden's disturbing portrayal of Madelaine, but there's first-class support here from the entire team.
Sound forms a significant element in the piece, including evocative and unnerving effects as well as songs and archive recordings, all orchestrated by the sizeable and skilful team of Kira Belin, Milos Stojanovic and Paolo Cognetti.
Flycatcher is undoubtedly bizarre and baffling at times, but it's also strangely riveting, not least because there's a flawlessly gifted cast to savour and considerable, outré humour.
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ActDrop listing for Hope Theatre
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