Billed as a show where physical theatre and black comedy meet in a ‘lunatic dreamscape’, Hot Salt Theatre’s Honey Blood is a rollercoaster of eager ideas, complete with extreme highs and lows.
Telling the tale of a daughter coming to terms with the suicide of her mother, the play's scenes are set between the funeral wake and more surreal flashback episodes into the mother’s psyche. The discovery of some letters at the wake, written by the mother in the years leading up to her death, allow the daughter to find peace through a new understanding of her mother’s inner turmoil and their resulting tumultuous relationship.
It is these letters that provide the show with its heart. Surreal streams of consciousness read aloud from the page by the daughter are vividly brought life through brilliant physical theatre and striking visual devices. Experimenting with sound and movement, it is these scenes that are the strongest, as the writing, performances and direction are equally innovative and engaging, creating some soaring moments full of heartbreak and pathos.
By contrast, the more naturalistic scenes set at the wake seem superfluous. Melodramatic, clichéd and peppered with cheap gags and caricatures, they come across as a kind of unnecessary safety blanket for the dreamscape scenes, tying up the narrative neatly, but needlessly.
The cast of four each put in passionate and energetic performances, excelling in the dreamscape scenes when Briony O’Callaghan’s writing and direction is at its peak. Of particular note is the performance of the mother, at once haunting and visceral, compelling the audience to empathise with her sense of hollowness and despair.
Like Hot Salt Theatre, the show is interesting, original and full of scope for development. A little rough around the edges, but with some real sparkle at its core, Honey Blood is a great idea for a play - slightly overwhelmed by ideas and style.