Frantic Assembly’s The Believers – Review

This review first appeared in Western Park Gazette

Frantic Assembly presents The Believers
by Bryony Lavery
directed by Scott Graham

Eileen Walsh (Marianne) and Richard Mylan (Ollie) in Frantic Assembly's The Believers by Helen Maybanks (3)

Eileen Walsh & Richard Mylan by Helen Maybanks

If you like your theatre edgy then Frantic Assembly’s The Believers is certainly that.
Just as the whole performance is open to different interpretations, so the term edgy sums up both the nagging feeling something unpleasant lurks beneath the surface of Maud and Ollie’s overpowering generosity but also the incredible set: trapezioid and rectangular frames, neon strips and lots of angles.

Marianne, Joff and their unseen 9 year old daughter Grace accept the assistance of their neighbours Maud ,Ollie and their (also unseen) daughter Joyous after their house is flooded following heavy rain. This feels like a biblical warning and sure enough, Maud and Ollie turn out to be embarrassing neighbours, hell bent on prayer and God’s love. They offer Marianne, Joff and Grace a meal and a place to sleep and a not-so-welcome chance to get to know their neighbours better.

Penny Layden (Maud) and Richard Mylan (Ollie) in Frantic Assembly's The Believers by Helen Maybanks (9)

Penny Layden & Richard Mylan by Helen Maybanks

Amusing exchanges take place around the dinner table as the invited guests try and keep their cynicism and swearing under control. Lots of white Rioja, Ollie’s special peanut sauce and a few joints later the barriers come down. Meanwhile, Grace and Joyous are left to their own devices upstairs – and that’s when events take a turn no one expects.

This is powerful theatre. Jon Bausor’s set design is starkly effective, a metal frame moved by the actors on the high gloss stage signifying at different points a door, a window frame, walls, barriers – such a simple device yet one which leads to many interpretations. The scenes where we see the actors seemingly from above are stunning and clever and add to the overall concept of perspective; things look different from alternative views and standpoints – who is right, after all?

There are great performances from the cast of four, in particular, Eileen Walsh gives Marianne a tough veneer but with a disappointed and ultimately heart-wrenching core.
Frantic Assembly are renowned for producing innovative and unforgettable theatre. This production, with Plymouth Theatre Royal and in association with Curve, is dark, mesmerising and complex. You won’t get all the answers but you will think about what you see and wonder.

The Believers is on at Curve until 29th March (not one for the children though, with a lot of strong language) Tickets and information Curve

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