This new show at the Lowry is well performed but alienating, says Dave Cunningham.
11 Oct 2013
Sadie Jones (Stephanie Greer) enters a dream state from which she is able to re-live key moments in her life and trace the origins of her deteriorating mental health. Sadie
imagines how her sister Kim (Elizabeth Crarer) and her lover Danny (Alan Humphreys) might react were she to respond to an instruction painted on her car and disappear.
Abstract staging might seem better suited to light material as, by its nature, it can be perceived as trivialising serious subjects. Hannah Silva (who both wrote and directed the play) avoids this problem by using the technique to replicate the disturbed mind of her protagonist. She sets a disquieting mood for the play entirely suited for a dark dream. Fiona Chiver's stage set surrounds the antiseptic kitchen, in which Kim and Danny sit, with piles of bones and discarded toys.
As long as the technique is anchored in telling Sadie's story it works really well, giving us a glimpse into her deteriorating mind. The more symbolic aspects are less successful. It becomes hard to maintain attention in a sequence where Sadie's descent into madness is represented by her being seduced into a dance with a dead man. The shock value of Sadie's self-mutilation is lessened by the sequence going on too long.
Silva makes excellent use of sound to set the mood. As well as recorded noises of echoing trains, the actors also contribute the disturbing noises that bounce around inside Sadie's troubled head.
The performances are excellent. Greer's bright and cheerful Sadie becomes increasingly brittle as the show progresses. The cast rise admirably to the demands of a complex script. Silva's lyrical and rhythmic script comes close to blank verse and the actors constantly interrupt each other or finish a sentence someone else has started.
The actors play with the words in a single sentence, re-arranging them and creating new meanings. This demanding approach adds considerably to the dream-like feel of the play.
The Disappearance of Sadie Jones is a disturbing concept very well executed, but it is so cerebral that the effect is alienating rather than involving. You find yourself observing, rather than getting drawn into, the life of Sadie Jones and her friends and family.