Written by Sarah Majland (who plays titular character, Harper) and produced by Quid Pro Quo Productions (compromised of three of the performers), the show explores post partum depression in an uncensored conversation. The cutting honesty, mixed with an intense substance addiction makes for a riveting show and grasps at you from the start. Quid Pro Quo Productions was formed, in part, to explore under-represented topics with flawed and grey characters, and this show succeeds at this. Dealing with realistic topics, it never shies away from stripping the characters down to the dark and uglier sides of being human, and this approach is commendable.
The show hinges primarily on Majland's strong writing, and results in the heartbreaking confessions of Harper being unable to love or connect with her child. Amongst this, themes and topics of depression, suicide, homosexuality, domestic abuse and power dynamics are also explored. Moments of spoken word by Majland are powerful, bringing calm internal observations in the constant commotion.
Chloe Winney is the standout performer with her wide-eyed portrayal of the young, kind hearted and wise Therese. As the only stable character in a spiralling world, she was a breath of fresh air every time she appeared on stage, and was a delight to watch. Boyan Petrov (Mark) and Sarah Majland (Harper) are both brilliant actors, yet it's only in the second act that they're given a chance to really shine. Majland, however, absolutely steals the show in its closing moments with her wailing, broken, and vulnerable Harper. The acting in these final moments is the perfect end to an otherwise quite contained and dialogue focused play. Öncel Camci effortlessly brings bouts of charm to the devious Oliver, yet the character himself struggles to find his place in this turbulent world. Often the instigator of conflict, the character has a depth that is unexplored.
Directed by Casper Aagard, the actors deliver passionate performances which helps the audiences process and remain invested in the dialogue heavy scenes. However whilst the conflicts and conversations propell the story forward, there are moments when this becomes a little tedious, as a few of the arguments are repetitive. This becomes more evident when we learn more about the characters, and are unable to relate or root for any of them. I particularly liked the subtle predatory nature of Oliver that comes through with his relationship with Therese, which unfortunately isn't represented enough in media. Whilst there isn't time to flesh this storyline out further, it results in the shows strongest moment where Mark and Therese must confront each other to help understand the complicated Oliver.
The show creates a tense atmosphere with help from subtle shades of blue and red lighting (Everleigh Brenner) and tense music (Öncel Camci). The set is quite simple, with a wooden dining table and two benches. The meaning of this is revealed in a beautiful metaphor later in the play. The actors use the entire stage well, and we were always included in the conversations.
A woman on Fire is a strong show with beautifully written complex issues and incredible performances. The show is playing at the Baron's Court Theatre until the 11th of November. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review