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A CurtainUp London London Review
Like A Fishbone

I will always choose God over the truth. — The Mother
Like A Fishbone
Sarah Smart as the Mother and Deborah Findlay as the Architect (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Australian playwright Anthony Weigh, whose first play 2000 Feet Away was such a brilliant opener at The Bush, returns with a slower burning play, full of debate and interest, if you give it time. In an office on the evening of the architectural launch, a woman architect (Deborah Findlay) waits with the model of her latest project. It is to design a building to commemorate the deaths of the children from a religious community in the small town school where they have been gunned down in a senseless massacre. The Architect, aware of the sensitive nature of the project has consulted with a representative panel and the resulting design is to show the school, with one wall glass replacing the bricks, with desks and chairs overturned. The explanation for this artwork is that it represents the truth, what actually happened on this site.

Her preparations are interrupted by the arrival of a woman from this community (Sarah Smart). A blind woman, she has travelled alone by public transport to talk to the Architect whom she assumes will be a man. She claims to have had a dream in which her dead child asked her to stop the monument taking this form. And so the debate begins between the two women, stopping only for the entrances of the posh architectural intern (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) with housekeeping information and a willingness to be of assistance.

The blind woman is religious and the Architect is not, so we meet the first dichotomy of belief and non-belief or as the Architect prefers to call it, truth. The Architect talks in the jargon of her profession, about the stakeholders, in this case those paying for the monument and the families and church of those children who died at the scene. Then there is the purpose of the monument. Is it there for tourists and voyeurs who want to ogle vicariously at the place where such bloodshed occurred? The Mother knows that the outside world is asking why God allowed this to happen in their town of religious families. The Mother appeals to the Architect as a fellow parent rather than to her as a professional and to some extent this approach is effective.

Josie Rourke directs a cooly professional, but running out of patience, Deborah Findlay and driven, almost unhinged Sarah Smart as the blind mother, ruthlessly determined to change the design. The question is posed whether a memorial to a massacre can be a work of art? The Mother, increasingly desperate, challenges the Architect’s personal life, her divorce and the custody of her son with her ex-husband. Sarah Smart stares into the middle distance unsure exactly where the voices come from. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a strong acting personality but has very little to do here.

Lucy Osborne’s wide and spacious set is dominated by the rain pouring down the windows where the Architect and the Intern talk about the importance of the function of buildings and yet, no matter how hard she tries, the Architect is unable to open the window, so this building remains oppressive and uncomfortable. An architectural model shows the school, the trees, the levels of the hill in plaster white with the grey buildings of the town below. James Farncombe’s lighting is delicate with a dramatic ending.

A parallel production will open soon in Anthony Weigh’s home country in Australia where the character of the child excised from the London script during previews will be intact.

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Like A Fishbone
Written by Anthony Weigh
Directed by Josie Rourke

Starring: Deborah Findlay, Sarah Smart, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Design: Lucy Osborne
Lighting: James Farncome
Sound: Emma Laxton
Running time: One hour 20 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0207610 4224
Booking until 10th July 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th June 2010 performance at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush Green, London W12 8QD (Tube: Shepherd’s Bush)

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