Only the second original play by award winning South African writer Craig Higginson, The Girl in the Yellow Dress, was one of the big successes at the Edinburgh Festival in 2010, and makes a taut, erotic and sometimes bleak 90 minutes of electrifying theatre.
A two-hander, played out in five short acts, we witness the developing relationship between Celia, (Fiona Button) a young, beautiful, seemingly self-assured English teacher living independently in Paris, and Pierre (Clifford Samuel), her young and handsome French-Congolese language student. The narrative is moved along through each session, focusing on a particular grammatical reference: ‘The Passive’, ‘Narrative Tenses’, ‘The Conditional’, ‘Lies and Truth’ and ‘Degrees of Uncertainty’, which act as metaphors for what is evolving between the two players.
Although on the face of it a straightforward clash of class and culture full of clever linguistic parrying, there is a brooding undercurrent of sexual and racial tension and suppressed inner-conflict which finally erupts shockingly, taking the play in a completely unexpected and much darker direction.
The two actors are superb, holding the tension throughout, and making their character’s inner demons both believable and disturbing, and Tim Roseman’s tight direction does not allow the audience a moment to relax their attention.
A complex and disturbing examination of obsession, guilt and self-deception, this play challenges both perception and belief, but rewards an attentive audience with thought-provoking, original drama.