I saw Second Face Theatre Company’s production of Dougie Blaxland’s one-woman play at the Mission Theatre in Bath – a gem of a venue in case (like me) you have not been there before, ideal for intimate plays such as this.
The set is a sparce but elegant white room that serves as a canvas for the story. The only onstage character is Alicia Harding, a recent drama school graduate who seems destined to remain an also ran in the sharply bitchy world of professional theatre, where her rivals delight in snubbing her at parties as they claw and flirt their way to success. Her career highlight so far is a performance in a space above a kebab shop in Edinburgh to an absent public. She tells us directly her tales of humiliation and indignity, which begins here with failing an audition in front of the celebrated director, Simon Cardew. In a misguided attempt to curry favour with him by schmoozing with his beloved and continually incontinent pooch, Titus, she inadvertently lands the role of dog sitter at his home while he tours with one of her bitter rivals in a lead role.
Alicia relates an amusing catalogue of further disasters as a routine of cleaning up canine puddles threatens to crush her aspirations. Whatever her stage limitations though, Alicia is nothing if not cunning, and starts to weave a tangled plot in an attempt to advance her trajectory to stardom.
Hannah-Marie Chadwick holds the stage with panache and draws us deeper and deeper into Alicia’s world of disappointments and intrigue. Along the way she populates the stage with Alicia’s portrayals of a whole other cast of theatrical agents, actors, directors, treacherous boyfriends, and invented housemaids. Director Jazz Hazelwood gets the pacing perfect, from the gently amusing unfolding of the early scenes to a frenzied climax where Chadwick does not miss a beat whilst jumping between playing herself and all the off-stage characters caught up in the web she has spun. Perhaps at times the comedic portrayals could be a touch lighter in a venue of this size, but the performance is otherwise impressive.
The play deals with a rarefied and self obsessed world and tackles no great themes, but takes its drive from universal motives of ambition and envy. It is a light piece, offering much pleasure and a well-crafted, enjoyable evening of entertainment.