Illyria by Bryony Lavery marks the finale of an exciting season of work from Young Everyman & Playhouse.
The story of a journalist in a war-torn country, this 70 minute one act play is the culmination of a wide variety of performances from YEP, and once again demonstrates the passion and talent of all those currently involved with the group.
Directors Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson have clearly inspired their performers to shine throughout an intensely dark piece of work. The cast of 12 remains on stage throughout as something of a Greek chorus, providing the sights and sounds of a strange, unsettling land and becoming human props as needs be. This works to great effect both in times of high drama and in the play’s many comic moments. As there is no escape for the characters of Illyria, so it is for the actors, who take on the challenge (and the adult content) with confidence and relish.
Jade Thomson plays Maria Vargas, a British journalist alone in a frightening place. She’s trying to find the Generalissimo, but instead finds the house of his mistress Madame (Rachel Ward). Their story, as Maria finds the dictators unwilling to even acknowledge the reality of the world outside their window, is interspersed with scenes of horror on the streets and among the troops, as well as some comic relief from the three house maids, one of which is constantly spooking the others with gruesome stories of murders and torture. They sound like tall tales (“Holy Mother!” one cries throughout in disbelief), but the storyteller’s taste for normalising the macabre must have come from somewhere.
Nobody can escape from that kind of situation unchanged, as it remains for all the survivors. A thought-provoking piece that is as refreshing as it is unsettling, this season YEP have really proved themselves as a company to watch.
There is a final performance of IIlyria tonight (Saturday, April 21).