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Fringe Theatre 2018 - On the Exhale, Traverse Theatre, Four stars / Coriolanus Vanishes, Traverse Theatre, Four stars

The mess of strip-lights on the ground look like discarded bullets magnified to monster-size in China Plate’s production of On the Exhale, Martin Zimmerman’s seethingly intense solo play, written in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

It’s a symbol, perhaps of the turmoil of the woman unfurling her story, a story of how an ordinary woman list her child one day to an unnecessary massacre caused directly by American gun laws, and the thing she does to help her try and understand what happened.

These things aren’t obvious, as actor Polly Frame talks is through her move from grieving mother to increasingly obsessive survivor seeking revenge.

Christopher Haydon’s production takes its grim-faced and terrifyingly pertinent subject matter and invests Zimmerman’s script with the twists and turns of a thriller.

With shootings on the increase and American laws unchanged, this is a vital dissection of loss, healing and how we all need to keep our safety catch at bay.

Private, public and secret lives are gradually unveiled in Coriolanus Vanishes, David Leddy’s remarkable solo piece for the author’s Fire Exit company. Here, Irene Allan is Chris, a power-dressed high-flyer in an international arms trade banged-up for crimes initially unknown but not too hard to spot. Over a seventy-minute confessional, Chris’ concerns flit between domestic and professional, between hard-nosed networker and proud family woman, until everything goes into freefall, and here she is, behind bars.

Originally performed by Leddy himself in 2017, here Chris is played with mercurial brilliance by Allan, whose emotions turn on a pin as she stands behind a desk on Becky Minto’s shadow-lined set, part cell, part wood-lined sanctuary. Without preaching, Leddy’s play has peeled back the skin on those in high office to prick their conscience by laying bare their all too personal pathologies in mesmerising fashion.

The Herald, August 18th 2018

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