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Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The offstage crying that punctuates the deceptively domestic opening of Quebecois writer Catherine-Anne Toupin's decade-old play is a giveaway about the inner turmoil that Alice, the young woman at its heart, is going through. Her screams, alas, remain silent as she navigates her exhausted way through the blandly immaculate des-res she shares with her husband Ben, an equally worn out doctor who she barely sees. When her predatory neighbours turn up at her front door, high comedy moves from madcap to manic in an increasingly troubling psycho-drama.

In Chris Campbell's English language translation for Michael Boyd's co-production between the Traverse, the Theatre Royal Bath Ustinov Studio and the Bush, this is delivered with exaggerated gusto by a cast of space invading grotesques. Between them, Maureen Beattie's Juliette, Dyfan Dwyfor's Francois and Guy Williams as Gilles fill a void of lovelessness and loss with cloying displays of inappropriateness that mine every post Freudian neurosis going. With Sean Biggerstaff's Ben and Lindsay Campbell's Alice seemingly going along for the ride, the play doesn't so much dissect Alice's troubled psyche as poke furiously around each layer until all its sores are exposed alongside the scars on Francois' body.

The increasingly desperate extremes plumbed seem to come from some parallel universe fever dream that leads the tellingly named Alice down a rabbit hole where a looking glass of hormonally driven social subversion stares back at her before overwhelming her into submission. When she eventually comes up for air in a world that recalls Polanski's film, Repulsion, as much as Abigail's Party, everything Alice wished for has clearly been her downfall in this blazing and brilliant depiction of a grown-up nightmare.

The Herald, April 21st 2016

ends

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