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Hole | Old Red Lion Theatre

Hole, which is written by Hannah Morrish and co-directed by David Fairs and Conor O'Kane, is a one woman play that becomes a deep dive into oneself, trying to find an explanation for her binge eating disorder. The play is incredibly intense, and an almost uncomfortable watch, its unflinching portrayal with a stellar performance from Matsume Kai

An unnamed protagonist (Kai) is told that she has binge eating disorder, and she reflects on how this has affected her childhood. In several strong flashbacks, this is presented in a distressing vividness that works wonders for quickly establishing the seriousness of her struggles. A morbid fantastical has her discovering a key-shaped hole in her stomach, and finds a young child holding the key. Together with the child, she delves into herself, trying to locate the "leak" and put an end to this void space that insists on consumption. In an adventurous trek through the dark lands and rivers within herself, she must also confront emotional obstacles, to help understand and process herself. The play has elements of a mythical land, with its many lakes, an abyss, dry grounds, and fantasy creatures, with a glowing child, a perfect version of herself and a hairy large creature. 

Kai is a tremendously talented performer. Undertaking a massive role, Kai effortlessly switches between multiple characters and emotions in split seconds, and throws herself entirely into the piece. Breaking down barriers, and holding the tension tight, her performance is incredibly raw, vulnerable and complicated. From sinister smiles, to unsettling details, to jump scare screams, to crippling anxiety and childish laughter, there's nothing Kai can not do. The piece also uses a lot of physical movement (David Fairs, Conor O'Kane and Rebecca Joy Wilson), which Kai incorporates well. 

However, the piece veers slightly too much into detailing this internal journey that she takes, and moves away from the initial premise. The details of this internal world are painstakingly visually painted over and over again, which sadly leaves less time for the characters own reflections for a large portion of the play. The production favours visually striking moments of storytelling, which doesn't quite work in terms of the subject matter, but does result in a memorable theatre experience on the whole. 

The sound and lighting (Fairs and O'Kane) tie in together really well, particular in the latter half of the play. Creating rippling blue water, a dim cave-like room, or bolts of multi-coloured illuminations, the lighting design is beautiful and transforms the small space into this new land. The sound design maintains these changes, with comforting sounds of water, or the jingling of keys for the child. The set is quite sparse, save for a few mannequin parts dotted about the stage (and even a few on the front row) with tubes of light propped up next to them. Three black cubes are used as furniture and aids in movement in an inventive way. A covered section of the set is later revealed to be suitcases, and the long black cloth to denote the abyss.

Hole is a bold and visually strong piece that unfortunately ventures a little too far off course. It is currently playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 22nd June. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Charles Flint


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