Written in the fifties, Mervyn Peake’s previously unproduced play examines two particular attitudes fashionable in philosophical argument at the time - man’s reaction to both his solitude and his need for love.
The action takes place in a cave where the audience observes the inhabitants at three points in time, prehistoric, medieval and the fifties. Each period brings a girl into the cave striking eerily similar emotions throughout the ages. By witnessing these events, Peake exposes man’s ultimately fragile nature and Aaron Paterson’s production cheekily adds a post-script to bring the concept into the present day. Designer Talulah Mason has altered the focus of the space at this intimate South London venue, creating the illusion of a cave with bold, fabric drapes and atmospheric lighting.
The driving force here are the performances, which generate tension and elements of excitement from the opening. Over time the parental figures take on lesser roles but the die has been cast in prehistory with Nicholas Hoad, dominating and protecting with the strength of force as the Father whilst Diane Axford’s Mother attempts to nurture whilst breeding superstition. Feuding brothers throughout the ages are represented by Sebastian Aguirre and Guy Warren-Thomas tingeing their performances with fear and aggression in turns. An imposing Matthew Wade as Tom Carter comes to represent authority but central to each story is fatalistic Mary, the eternal interloper, played by Emily Wallis. Wallis’ is an authoritative performance, bringing an almost cheery stoicism to the heart of the story as her character chips away at man’s superstitions.