Barbican Theatre, London – until 12 May 2019
I could listen to Maxine Peake read the phone book. A voice so full of warmth and character and unexpected texture, it somehow allows you to both sink into its soothing depths yet retain the capacity to catch you off-guard at any given moment.
That dual capacity is powerfully deployed in Avalanche – A Love Story, Julia Leigh’s adaptation of her own memoir about her experiences in going through IVF. Over a 90 minute running time that simply flies by, Peake fills the stage of the Barbican magnificently.
Anne-Louise Sarks’ production adds only the ghosts of children into the wide space of Marg Horwell’s design, where Peake’s narrator recounts the experience of reconnecting with a old flame and deciding to try for a baby. He’s had a vasectomy and she’s in her late 30s but there’s always modern medicine isn’t there…
Avalanche covers what happens when that isn’t the case. The enduring stress of futilely trying to conceive, the piercing grief of IVF cycles that don’t work, the suffocating trauma but also an eventual point of hope. Peake guides us expertly through these worlds of pain, a reassuring presence even in the most shattering of times.