by Frank McGuinness
Tricycle Theatre, London until June 1
ARDUOUS, gruelling, hard work — if Frank McGuinness’ latest play demands much of its audience, then it takes even more from actress Leanne Best.
The Liverpool actress must finish each night at Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre absolutely drained, such is the staggering amount of wild emotion she pours into this one-woman monologue.
Best plays Sal, a grieving Liverpool-born mother who has fled the city for her parents’ Co. Kerry bolt-hole following the tragic shooting dead of her 12-year-old daughter.
Throughout the 1 hour 45 minute performance, Sal retreats to a box of matches lodged in her pocket, striking them each time the emotion of her loss engulfs her.
These moments of reflective silence come amid frantic bursts of dialogue and, throughout, McGuinness uses the imagery of fire, combustion and the dying of the light to powerfully convey the exhaustive, draining emotion of loss.
At times, however, it just all comes too hard and heavy.
The Match Box drags in numerous parts, particularly in the middle segment, and with no interval (and no room to breathe in the tight Tricycle space), it’s difficult to sit still and engage.
The plot too is predictable and offers no explosive debate to match the fiery on-stage performance. More than once, one feels that Best’s efforts are let down by McGuinness’ words.
A tighter, sharper edit would have made for a more piercing play. But Best is worth the price of admission alone and, along with lighting designer Charlie Lucas, deserves ample credit for a performance that is at once controlled and wild, and utterly believable.