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Published on Wednesday, 18 July 2012

3 starsUnderground Venues, Theatre
13, 15, 17 Jul, 3:15pm-4:00pm; 16 Jul, 10:30pm-11:15pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

Shadow Syndicate tackle Jane Shepard’s Nine, which sees two female prisoners endure captivity and brutality, and explores their attempts to stay free in their minds.

Actors Lauren Turner and Jessica Millott, both 17 years old, offer exhausting performances – rising to the challenges of the play’s emotional extremes. With remarkable energy, they give consistent and committed performances throughout the show.

Yet the script has its challenges: the two captives’ brutal behaviour towards each other is confusing, and never adequately explained in the face of such danger from outside. The poetic references to proverbs and a shaft of moonlight, which one of the prisoners confides in the other, aren’t quite earned, which leaves the dialogue feeling a little disjointed.  And the significance of the title never becomes entirely clear.

The script was first produced as a film in 2000, and re-imaging it in modern-day Syria is possibly misguided. The attempt to portray the two women as journalists is not supported by the text. The concept is shoehorned into the piece by way of audio clips of recent news reports, leaving it ringing a little false, rather than enhancing the script.

The highlight of the show is the performances by the young actors, who handle the difficult material with maturity. The connection between Turner and Millott is evident on stage, adding to the sense of seclusion and increasing the tension.

But the inclusion of news reports concerning the deaths of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, edited to remove the original names, was an unnecessarily tasteless addition which called further into question the reasoning behind setting the piece in Syria. Turner and Millott are impressive, but they are bound by the constraints of the production.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.