The Hampstead Theatre has, for a long time, offered some exciting programs of writing both new and old, marked by regular West End transfers. A succession of recent transfers from The Hampstead Theatre Downstairs to Trafalgar Studios includes James Fritz’s Four Minutes Twelve Seconds and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s The Wasp, with the most recent announcement of Phil Davies’ Firebird due to open February 2016.
The Wasp sees the reuniting of two old school friends with very different social upbringings. Carla (Myanna Buring) a working class woman who grew up with an abusive father, now has four children by a man she detests, with another child nearly due. Heather (Laura Donnelly) brought up in a loving, middleclass family, cannot conceive children. She lives in a lovely home with her regularly unfaithful husband Simon. Heather invites Carla for coffee to propose a business deal, she will give Carla £30,000 to kill Simon. Carla visits Heathers home to formulate a plan, however the evening turns even darker as Heather starts to recount their school years together. Ulterior motives come to the fore as Heather reveals the devastation inflicted on her entire life by the physical and mental abuse instigated by Carla all those years ago.
Outstanding performances by both Buring and Donnelly give this play much of its credibility and meaning. Donnelly in particular is outstanding, offering a riveting embodiment of a woman scorned with deep rooted emotional scarring and an unhinged mind. Luring you in to a false understanding by the first scene, Donnelly portrays a timid, uncertain character, seemingly overshadowed by Buring’s strong minded and bluntly cold Carla. Slowly however, she edges step-by-meditated-step into desperate despair as she puts her extensively devised plan in to action. Buring captures the gravity of these events with some extremely emotional desperation, reigning in the insanity of what’s happening on stage and offering some reality to the situation. Malcolm’s script swings cleverly around the poignant issue of bullying and childhood abuse, and the effect that those experiences can have on the stability of someone’s mental health in later life. She manages to portray some farfetched scenarios whilst maintaining a great deal of naturalistic realism. There were, at times, moments when Buring’s character seemed slightly out of sync with the naturalistic portrayal of these women. This was most likely due to some of the language Morgan used for Carla’s character. Again with Heather, there were odd lines that seemed a bit cheap in comparison to the rest of the script.
Ultimately The Wasp is a captivating and thought provoking piece of theatre. It offers a digestible narrative which will shock and surprise you at all of its twists and each of its turns.
Reviewed by Bob Galereux
The Wasp playing at Trafalgar Studios until 16th January