A powerful and sometimes an uncomfortable play, we’ve been told that this is the first time Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s award-winning play is performed in a theatre-in-the-round style that Studio 2 has been converted to. I am not sure if this should make any difference although if you are sitting along the length of the performance area, it is likely that you won’t be able to see everything that is going on. You’re better off sitting by the sides of the performance area for a consistent view of everything that happens in the play.
In the play, we meet Alice who used to be a soldier at Guantanamo Bay. In her final week there, the US government permits the women soldiers to sexually seduce their prisoners as a form of torture – and Alice sets off to do exactly that. 15 years later, Alice, now a florist, is in her early 40’s living with her ex-junkie husband Lucas and her teenage daughter Rhiannon. The family lives in Minnesota and the respectable present is a far cry from Alice’s ‘Gitmo’ past, which she is not able to remember, thanks to pill-popping. But, despite their attempt to reinvent themselves, their daughter Rhiannon suspects that her parents have not told her the entire truth about their past. When Alice comes face to face with, Bashir, one of her ex-detainees, their reinvented world is shattered to pieces that cannot be put back again.
Greer Dale-Foulkes gives an excellent performance as Rhiannon, who is lost and unable to make any sense of the world around her. She is betrayed by all the adults in her life, including Bashir, with whom she forms a strong bond as she interviews him for a school project. Rhiannon is an eerie echo of her mother – from the way she allows a goldfish to die on her palm to the way she interrogates Bashir. When the play ends, and as the actors take their curtain call, Greer Dale-Foulkes still looks very much shaken, showing just how much she has put into her performance.
The one unconvincing plot development in an otherwise excellent play is Rhiannon’s strong emotional attachment to Bashir within a short time of meeting him which is a little incongruous with Rhiannon’s sceptical character. There are also one or two stylistic elements in this production which aren’t really necessary for the play.
Overall, Lidless is an intense study of the role our pasts play in our present lives and it makes for a compelling drama. It also shows just how far people are willing to trust and accept government directives without letting their conscience play a part in their actions and, for me, this ultimately is the most horrifying issue.
Lidless is on at the Trafalgar Studios till 2 April. Press night is on 15 March. Performance time is approximately 75 minutes with no interval.