REVIEW: PANDORA (Pleasance Theatre) ★★★★

Review Pandora Pleasance TheatreTwo characters, each with their own story. Stories that connect in an unexpected way

A lone handsome black woman (played by the excellent Packsie Vernon) stands alone, dreamily playing the electric guitar and singing a beautiful, meandering song. She claims to be Hera, the wife of the God Zeus, who has come down to earth and expects to be honoured by the people that she meets.  Hera tells of finding her self in a pub where football is being shown on the television and her feeling of disassociation and panic. She seems unstable and unable to connect with the people around her.

Helen (played by the hauntingly attractive Grace Chilton) is a young inexperienced woman, who is heavily pregnant. She sits on the side of the stage at first, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt looking unutterably bored. Helen initially talks about her boring life, the boredom of her pregnancy, her addiction to the internet and her unsatisfactory sexual relationship with her unborn baby’s father (who was her first and only lover). She speaks desperately, like someone heading for a nervous breakdown. Her lover has left her and she must decide whether or not to keep the child. She seems to be without hope.

On one level, Pandora could be said to be exploring both the almost commonplace life of a young, single, mother-to-be and, at the same time, the mind of an unrelated delusional woman. It is however deeper than that. It is multilayered, beautifully written and thought provoking.

The show is expertly directed by the new, acclaimed, director Debbie Hannan who nicely avoids dropping the story into pathos. The play is fast paced but never at the expense of the narrative which remains clear but full of surprises.

Actress, singer-songwriter Paksie Vernon has appeared in various stage productions and writer and actress Grace Chiltern has a vast international experience. These two exceptional young talents have combined to both write, produce and star in this significant and thought provoking show. Don’t expect a simple linear narrative, this story comes at you from all directions at once. You feel drawn into an inexplicable series of events and you are not sure which is true, which is a skewed reality and which is imagination borne of madness.

Reviewed by Graham Archer