Reviewed by Malcolm Calder
By Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Q Theatre Loft
Until 24 September
By Malcolm Calder
16 September 2002
Coleridge would not have had Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s The Wasp in mind when he wrote of a willing suspension of disbelief. Getting to the end of The Wasp certainly requires a lot of it.
But it does so insidiously, initially sucking the audience into a fairly believable opening scenario laced with enough severed-sentences, innuendo and veiled suggestions for us to wonder where it might be going. Playing ‘beat the playwright’ in my head, and knowing this would be a psychological thriller, I tried very hard to imagine a range of possibilities. But I didn’t get even close.
Two pals from schooldays meet up again more than 20 years after they fell out as adolescents, never having spoken since. Carla is pregnant for the fifth time, married to a man twice her age and has struggled to make the best of what she’s got (‘a bit of work at Countdown’). Nor is she averse to other financial opportunities when they arise.
Heather lives a more upwardly mobile lifestyle, is childlessly married to a man we never meet and whom she remorselessly disparages (he gets only three words off-stage at the very end). She has a special offer to make to Carla. This is all revealed in a tightly-written initial scene in which Sam Snedden draws fine performances from a down to earth Miriama McDowell (Carla) and a slightly jittery Bree Peters (Heather).
That’s just the beginning and the disbelief kicks in shortly thereafter. And somehow we almost believe it. Well, some of it. Maybe. The two revisit their pasts and attempt to rationalise the course of their respective lives and minds. The Wasp reveals things buried deep in those minds that have been festering for nearly a quarter of a century. It becomes totally outrageous and pretty nasty in fact.
Localisation is well-handled in this highly entertaining and demanding two-hander. However I felt the denouement of Act 1 was a bit rushed and diminished the impact of its shock value, while the pace of Act 2 was occasionally erratic. But that shouldn’t distract the audience from enjoying the verbal and emotional gymnastics revealed as The Wasp twists, turns and eventually unravels. Yes, the mayhem too. And definitely that suspension of disbelief.
Q Theatre is deserving of acknowledgement for its Matchbox Series. The Wasp certainly fits in well.