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The Believers (Tour - Theatre Royal, Plymouth)

Frantic Assembly's The Believers (in conjunction with Theatre Royal Plymouth) is a compelling, spooky thriller with a touch of dark humour.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Penny Layden (Maud) and Richard Mylan (Ollie) in Frantic Assembly's The Believers by Helen Maybanks

Never failing to excite, Frantic Assembly's latest offering (in conjunction with Theatre Royal Plymouth) is a compelling, spooky thriller with a touch of dark humour.

TMA Best Play and the Eileen Anderson Central Television Award-winner Bryony Lavery's The Believers is somewhat wordy, but that is forgiven in a visually demanding piece beautifully directed and choreographed by company stalwart Scott Graham (Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time plus numerous Frantic Assembly credits).

Jon Bausor (London Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony designer) sets the piece on a simple set with light-absorbing black vinyl flooring and backdrop, strip lighting and a couple of metal frames complemented by lighting from Andy Purves (Propeller, La Clique and La Soiree).

Fiesty but vulnerable Marianne (beautifully portrayed by Eileen Walsh) and gentle giant Joff (Christopher Colquhoun - Casualty's Dr Kaminski, Five Guys Named Moe and more) are offered refuge from their flooded home by hippie chic, religious neighbours.

Fuelled by white Rioja and peanut sauce – and a few spliffs – the couple move from mocking the calm intensity of their holier-than-thou hosts to admitting despair and repulsion for their "difficult" daughter.

Smug Maud (a convincing performance by Penny Layden) and self-serving Ollie (Richard Mylan - Peepshow, My Family) bring to bear their utter faith in their god with consequences that shake their very foundations.

The sense of foreboding is beautifully handled, ramped up with every flashback, every searing light through the pitch black, and with Carolyn Downing's strident sound board a visceral step to the next level.

And instead of the more balletic movement we might expect from this company, the piece is played in full 3D with the wall used to great effect, as actors are suspended so our view is at times of the top of their heads or looking up at them in the upper floor. Excellent.

- Karen Bussell