Watching a play in the dark, claustrophobic setting of the BT is never a light-hearted experience. Especially when said play deals with the psychopathic insanity of one protagonist and the gradual descent into insanity of the other. But then who said theatre had to be light-hearted?
Vico, written and directed by first-year undergraduate, Douglas Taylor, is the story of a highly intelligent sociopath who, through a variety of games and manipulations tries to drive her psychotherapist, Finn, mad.
At the very start of the play the over-confident, Vico strides in and makes the revelation that she killed her mother, by stabbing her in the face. Over the course of the next few therapy sessions, she skips, eats a banana, brings in dead birds, plays head and tales and relentlessly provokes and attacks her undeserving therapist, playing on her every insecurity: ‘You’re barren! It died….your child.’
The play is well-paced to show how Finn slowly crumbles under the pressure from Vico. At one pivotal moment the two swap seats to show the reversal of roles and at the end of the play Finn finally submits to Vico’s demand that she should refer to her by her first name and not as ‘Miss Moretti’. Vico’s refrain that ‘nothing is original’ because of the ‘cycle of life’, the constant repetition of which itself emphasizes her point, turns out to be tragically accurate. Why both of the main female characters have male names, however, remains unexplained to the very end.
Sarah Abdoo delivers an energetic and accomplished performance as Vico, but the star of the play is Kimberley Sadovich, who expertly embodies the uptight therapist with a gradually deteriorating grasp on reality. The hapless work experience boy (Jonas Hoersch), though he provides a few cheap chuckles when he repeatedly interrupts the emotionally fraught therapy sessions to ask for staples, is somewhat of a cliché.The brief but touching scenes between Finn and her husband (James Baird) provide some welcome punctuation in the tense environment of the play.
The set is perfect. The black leather chairs are exactly the type one would expect to find in a swanky Harley St. Clinic. The hanging picture frames and mirrors create a slightly otherworldly feel, as does the eerie electronic sound backing, which is an interesting mix of extra-terrestrial tones and Southern American jingles.
This play is a mesmerising piece of theatre, by turn horribly tragic and darkly comic. For all its virtues, I’m glad it is no longer than an hour, because after a while the erratic behaviour of the central characters and ambiguous allusions of the script made me feel like I myself was starting to go a bit potty.