Southwark Playhouse (venue)
28 June 2022 (released)
29 June 2022
A play that's premise has received such a promising take up with various playwriting awards would be expected to translate into a challenging and thought provoking first staging. What is on show, however falls somewhat short.
Tom Ratcliffe's play is inspired by real-life events and is described as a no-holds-barred look at vigilantism, social media and mob-justice surrounding the titular figure of Evelyn. She has been accused and convicted of covering and possibly aiding her murderous husband and as a result become one of the most hated women in Britain.
When Sandra turns up in Walton-on -the Naze with only a suitcase and a past full of inconsistencies, we are led to believe that she might be Evelyn. Nicola Harrison gets the most she can from the role and does much to keep the momentum and drama going.
Sandra becomes a reluctant boarder at a seaside retirement village and is cajoled into posing as Jeanne's god daughter to gain accommodation there. Rula Lenska as Jeanne, has great fun with the devil may care attitude and delves deeply into the decline of her character who is experiencing the onset of dementia. The friendship that grows between Sandra and Jeanne has a lot of warmth and potential, but like a lot of the plot is not developed and lacks the conflict it needs to create real drama.
Yvette Boakye as Laura brings the voice of the mob rule and the questioning of Sandra's identity. However, this character and her brother Kevin (Offue Okegbe), are underwritten and as such are predictable and clichéd.
To punctuate the main story the characters of Mr Punch, Judy and the crocodile spring out to repeatedly set the scene. Pointing a puppet finger at and provoking the audience using their comic violence and commentary during the social media interludes. But rather than provide intrigue and social comment these characters feel out of place and make the piece feel disjointed . The music from Michael Crean has echoes of the Tiger Lilles and Shock-Headed Peter and brings the suitable eeriness that the play needs. Considering how strong the subject matter is, it feels like an opportunity missed with the direction and design adding confusion rather than clarity.
Describing itself as an 'unflinching piece of theatre' implies much that at present is under developed. There is a lot to like about Tom Radcliffe's ideas but it feels too soon for this to have a full production.