Theatre 503, London – until 30 November 2019
Spiderfly at Theatre 503 is that powerful combination of a beautifully written play, imaginatively produced and perfectly cast. There is such a confidence and intelligence to the writing, it is hard to believe this is John Webber’s first full length play. This is a drama that genuinely thrills and intrigues.
This is the story of Esther. Her sister is dead, and she is looking for answers. Meet Keith. Who is he? What does he know? What will it cost Esther to find out? How will it impact her new, unformed relationship with Chris? Who is actually in control? Esther? Keith? Well it’s definitely not Chris.
Lia Burge is magnificent as Esther. The array of emotions that flit across her face throughout the performance is breathtaking. This is a sensitive and nuanced performance of a woman haunted by her past. Burge completely inhabits Esther, with all her complicated motivations and desires. The purity and expressiveness she conveys makes Esther’s story all the more absorbing.
Matt Whitchurch plays both Keith and Chris. Embarrassing confession time, as the play progressed I was starting to wonder if they were two actors who happened to look very alike, the transformation in terms of performance between the characters is so convincing. It was very disconcerting.
Peter Small’s excellent lighting design didn’t help ease my confusion, as the different lighting tones between scenes added to that sense of metamorphosis. It makes a lot of sense for Chris and Keith to be played by the same actor, in terms of the thematic threads of the play. Whitchurch is stunning as these two very different men. His body language, accent and tone change so completely. He oozes disquiet and menace as Keith, while being awkwardly endearing as Chris.
Furthermore these aren’t two actors trapped in the bubble of their individually brilliant performances. The chemistry between them fuels and magnifies the authenticity of their characters, making me feel all the more invested in their story.
Kirsty Patrick-Ward’s sophisticated direction ensures the different plot elements of the play clearly land, but even more importantly she brings out the emotions sitting behind each new layer of detail. She understands the nuances of this accomplished play, bringing together all of the ingredients to create a beautifully crafted whole. Lizzy Leech, Peter Small and Dominic Brennan (set/costume, lighting & sound respectively) inventively bring to life the world of Spiderfly, underscoring and amplifying the key beats of the play.
As you can probably tell, I would recommend seeing Spiderfly. It is such an exciting and accomplished piece of new writing. More than that, it makes for an absorbing and thrilling trip to the theatre.
Spiderfly runs at Theatre 503 until Saturday 30th November. Go on, treat yourselves.