Flycatcher is a well acted foray into the bizarre world of absurdist theatre. We follow the story of Madeline, an awkward waitress, as her fascination with two strangers turns from affection to obsession.
The Hope Theatre’s versatile playing space is laid out in thrust formation, with only a structural white frame and some fairy lights for a set. This, along with having the actors wait mutely in the corners amongst the audience, sets the play up as very far removed from a naturalistic piece.
We meet the bizarre cast of characters one by one in a series of small scenes prior to the action really beginning, and it takes a little bit of time for the piece to really find its feet. These extra scenes could have been cut and would have reduced the piece’s substantial playing time (2 hours 20 minutes for any absurdist play is a stretch).
The four main characters are all presented with well rounded performances by the actors. Emily Arden as Madeline is deeply weird, yet incredibly sympathetic. So often do actors ‘show’ us that their character’s peculiarity – but in Flycatcher, Arden embodies the outsider looking in.
Amy Newton and Alex Shenton as the doomed couple Olive and Bing had excellent chemistry. Her frustration at being his ‘Grace Kelly’ is a toxic combination with how flattered she feels as a result of her own deep insecurity, and his portrayal of the besotted leading man was at once charming and suffocating.
Madeline’s grandma Mae was brought to life by Fiz Marcus and offered the audience some light relief from the increasingly dark storyline with her northern charm, at the same time as breaking our heart with her underlying fear of becoming irrelevant in the world. A short episode in which Mae goes clubbing seemed to be rather random at first, but as the events took a turn, the true poignancy of the scene was revealed.
The rest of the cast played various parts with various effective accents and mannerisms. A particular highlight was Olive’s dry assistant, whose American monotone drawl gathered the most laughs of the night. I do feel that some these supporting characters were not given the same care and attention as the four leads. The characters often came across as cartoonish, and although the bizarre staging allowed for exaggeration, they still needed a little more grounding in how real people actually behave.
Flycatcher isn’t a show that can be easily explained in a review – nor should it. It is one that should be experienced, allowed to wash over you and then allow your own thoughts on the piece come together organically. Every member of the audience, I don’t doubt, will have viewed a different show, and had a very unique evening at the theatre.