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Theatre Review Thriller fails dramatically in mountain ascent

Black Mountain
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-upon-Thames

BUILDING dramatic tension is not an easy skill for a playwright to master. Just a word or two, or even a pause, in the wrong place can puncture long spells of hard-earned unease.

In Brad Birch's latest play it is not so much his delicately crafted and intriguing wordplay that bursts the bubble but the deflating lack of substance behind it.

James Grieve's minimalist in-the-round production utilises just a ring of light and a collection of shrill sounds to illuminate the story of a murky love triangle.

Rebecca (Katie Elin-Salt) and Paul (Hasan Dixon) have escaped to an isolated country house to rescue their trauma-afflicted relationship, but the solitude serves only to resurrect the shadows of their past.

An alluring first 45 minutes keeps the mind guessing, but, as the possibilities diminish in the wake of Helen's (Sally Messham) calculated arrival, there is little to keep the audience attentive.

This is largely due to a lack of depth in both female characters. Where Paul's twisting and turning role allows the discerning Dixon to create an interesting portrayal of paranoia, both Elin-Salt and Messham have little to grab hold of in their archetypal and arguably underwritten characters.

Showing as one of a trio of short plays by the often excellent Paines Plough company, this “physiological thriller” lacks the depth and the edge to ever really thrill.

Runs until March 3, box office: orangetreetheatre.co.uk

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