Dark and unsettling, Alice Lacey’s production of Caryl Churchill’s play is a triumph from start to finish. Despite a very drawn out freezeframe at the beginning (with the actors looking as bored as you feel) the play soon picks up and proves to be riveting. Violent and shocking, the play portrays a girl whose life is plagued by violence, at war and at home. The staging of Churchill’s excellent play is helped in no small measure by fantastic performances from the cast and a subtle and understated soundtrack.From the first scene the audience is thrown into a terrifying and totalitarian world but provided with little explanation as to how it came about. At first, this appears to be an oversight on the part of the playwright, but as the actions progresses it becomes clear that you are supposed to understand as little about the situation the characters live in as they do. The plot follows the life of Joan and her experiences as she grows up. Setting the ominous tone that pervades the entire production, the audience first meets her as a young child, unable to sleep after being sent away to an isolated country house and hearing inexplicable disembodied screams from her bedroom window. Particularly worthy of mention is the parade of the prisoners, where the grotesque contrast of men trudging to their deaths with their garish headgear has all the visual appeal of a car crash, but at the same time is strangely mesmerising.The staging gives the production a claustrophobic feeling. Actors frequently come right up to the audience and bring them more directly into the characters’ world of violence and desctruction. By the end, we feel as frightened as they do. Although perhaps not a play to see if you’re feeling fragile, this is definitely not one to be missed for those of you who like your theatre slick, thought-provoking, and ever- so-slightly nightmare inducing.By Sarah Davies