Pleasance Theatre, London – until 11 March 2017
Helen (Grace Chilton) exhibits all the signs of a pregnancy borne out of desperation – the relationship with Aaron is swiftly going downhill, but don’t worry because an impending baby will fix this family. It will turn them into the picture perfect unit that she already has framed on her wall. Helen is a no frills, no filter sort of girl, commenting in a poignant monotone about every single observation she makes. Pregnancy is boring, indeed. Random statement emerge from Chilton in a semi-spoken word narrative that compiles together to make Pandora, a play that tries to extract hope from that evil that has spilled out all around. The natural pace of Chilton’s script is intoxicating – it skips from one random thought process to another as Helen paces around the flat she is now confined to. Wifi is down, jelly (her pregnancy craving) is out of stock, so she paces, ponders and waits for father-to-be to return and inject some energy into her despondent life. It transpires that this isn’t actually a good thing.
Hera (Paksie Vernon) strums an ethereal guitar; a loop pedal and haunting melodies pierce through the theatre, suspending the atmosphere between major and minor, a series of open fifths that never quite resolve. She is an all-powerful goddess and the ultimate mother, but even she is bored, sexually frustrated and experiencing marital strife. So she comes to Earth to experience life, vitality and excitement – all the things Zeus is no longer giving her. It seems as though even deities have issues. Once human however, Hera encounters all the chaos, the pain that defines and gives colour to existence. Passionate encounters between strangers are honest and rest, but simultaneously sweaty and far from picture perfect. No-one looks or feels good the morning after a drunken romp in the sack.
The fusion of the floating music with spoken word dialogue adds effortlessly ethereal echoes to Pandora. Whilst in essence a duologue, the stories of Helen (Chilton) and Hera (Vernon) entwine effortlessly. The duo indirectly engage each other, picking up on threads in the other’s story to emphasise their own plights. Is it real, will it get better? Once the box is opened and hope is the only thing left, what happens if we need the box again? It’s empty, bare, a void of nothingness.
Pandorais conceptually profound and elegantly realised. It draws the audience in with a combination of deadpan delivery and ethereal sub-text. Both stories are told with natural ability and emotion – for Helen the expression is all over her face yet intentionally never quite makes it to her voice, a dead sound that emphasise the nothingness inside her.
Pandora is beautifully kooky, off the wall. In essence it is an extended spoken word performance, but with a surreal concept and sharp narration that draws its audience into the descending spiral of its nonsensical madness.