Brighton Fringe, Brighton – until 21 May 2017
A converted metal shipping container is an appropriate theatre for Under My Thumb, a show that traps six women in a prison cell without ever revealing why. Cassiah Joski-Jethi eludes to it in her script and the audience are left to fill in the gaps.
We appreciate the dystopian world that James Haddrell creates – “slodge” in metal dog bowls and bin bag blankets to sleep under. But this touring version of the show lacks the raw power of its original incarnation, the production that opened and christened Greenwich Theatre’s new studio space.
Six different personalities that react to their incarceration. Some shutdown – Nev (Jessica Aquilina) skulks around the fringes of the set and keeps to herself until even she cracks. It’s not the captors, it’s the system; Aquilina’s speech oozes poignancy and forces a tender moment of warmth from Lily (Alice De-Warrenne). Apart from this, De-Warrenne feels uncertain and unsure, reticent in her delivery and holding something back from committing to her gently protective persona.
Others lash out and fight – Hattie (Charlotte Green) gives the strongest alpha female performance here. Keeping to character, she rails and rallies at every opportunity, the playground bully supported by lapdog Sam (Cassandra Hercules). The chemistry between these two is evident, Hattie stubbornly holding on to her influence while newcomer Ree (Serin Ibrahmi) subtly tries to erode her reasoning. Of all the women, it is Ibrahim’s character who never quite resolves itself, the ending to the production too abrupt as to award any kind of closure.
Under My Thumb as a whole doesn’t feel satisfying – too much in this altered edition remains unsaid and uncertain. Haddrell makes good use of space and video projection to pepper the story with background. But the finale feels clipped, stopped just before the big reveal. This is a cliff-hanger that doesn’t leave its audience desperate for more.