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Review: Coriolanus Vanishes (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Festival)

David Leddy's piece looks at the many forms of madness just below the surface

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Coriolanus Vanishes
© Sid Scott

David Leddy is known for creating on-stage magic and with this monologue, a dark, unhappy tale of the lead up to and fall out from a murder, manages to create something wonderfully compelling in the visuals department. It's a pity, then, that the script lets the piece down.

Leddy's play is a patchwork of memory and thought, which jumps back and forward in time, exposing little events and moments which build up to a bigger, darker whole. Chris – here played by Irene Allan – is awaiting trial in prison and the death of her father is preying on her mind. But it's not just that trauma which she's thinking about. Chris takes us back over her life with her wife, their adopted son, her affair with Paul, their relationship and the mistakes which led her to jail. It's a kind of high Greek tragedy played out with a drip, drip tension, until it unravels at the end.

The problem with it is that ultimately we don't care enough about Chris. The piece is too drawn out and doesn't focus in enough on setting up a palpable connection with her. As it is, it just feels like a psychological thriller delivered in an interesting form – but it would work much better as a novel, or TV show.

That said, when Leddy – who also directs – exploits the opportunity for stage surprises, he really comes up with the goods. Nich Smith's lighting design is all florescent lasers and lights, some of which are brought out of a desk, some of which are projected onto a backdrop. Danny Krass' sound design uses a variety of microphones to make it feel as though Chris is in our heads, it's disconcerting.

It's Allan's performance though, which carries the whole thing. She is charming and disarming, a cool, unflappable presence, with the air of a psychopath. There's confusion bubbling away under the surface of her performance, coupled with threat. We can see she's unstable, but we just aren't sure quite to what extent. Her broad smiles hide a lot.

Ultimately though, Coriolanus Vanishes is a case of style over substance. A compelling performance and some impressive designs don't manage to hide its flaws.

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