Elena Bolster’s two-hander is a unique piece that is elegiac and erotic, sensual and sensitive. Love and passions ebb and flow in this tale of two tortured souls who, in finding each other, find moments of happiness only to have them disappear and disintegrate. It is based on the relationship between the artist Egon Schiele and his most famous model Valerie.
Alistair Turner’s simple but clever set uses decking as a platform. Raised planks that rise up the rear walls not only provide us with the backdrop for the studio but act as breakwaters when the grainy black and white projections of gulls, waves and fish evoke the sea and the shore nearby.
The two characters introduce themselves, each in their own space on a ship where they first meet. We are witness to their thoughts: Valerie is on the lookout for a pick-up or a vulnerable person to pickpocket, whilst Egon sees her as a possible muse and model. But this is no sordid down-to-earth affair, for the language is poetic and powerful, infused with intense imagery that beguiles and bewitches: “Smile and dance and move the moving hands of yours that know to search my softer deeper spots. You skilfully, begin to join the dots.” And this lyrical interpretation is enhanced by stylised presentation that captures and reflects the play's hidden depths. Beautifully choreographed movements, developed by Jennifer Malarkey, seem to slow down time as the characters intertwine and part again.
Mel Oskar’s Valie is a sharp, intelligent, passionate girl who can switch emotionally in an instant, revealing her vulnerability. Keiron Jecchinis's artist is a man who seems unable to deal with his emotions: afraid to let his passions surface yet bitter and angry when illness begins to cripple him and he can no longer paint or love. What are the beasts within and should we control them or let them loose?
Both actors have superb voices and under Natasha Pryce’s direction give powerful performances that hold the audience in a series of personal reflections and narrations, switching between lyrical, swaying verse and terse dialogue. An emotionally engaging and profoundly moving piece of theatre.