Circleville, Circlevalley

The beauty of a new play, from a new company, is that expectations are at rock bottom. Well, with Circleville, Circlevalley, expectations soon shoot sky high.

With talented performers and a compelling script, Circleville Circlevalley tackles life’s knock-backs with brilliant dramatic creativity.

A drama therapy class led by Ellen (portrayed compassionately by Rebecca Hamilton) encourages its attendants to imagine their own world. A world where they are in control, where problems are tackled, where even the sky can fall and be reassembled in an instant. Using drama’s exceptional ability to take one outside oneself, each character’s troubled past is tracked and revealed with extraordinary nuance.

Not only are we witness to the personal problems clouding each character’s reality, we’re given insight into the future they hope for. It’s a show with multi-dimensional theatricality – a meta production which impresses rather than patronises.

Mary Higgins, who plays the grieving single mother Sal, delivers a stand-out performance. Her talent is clear as she demonstrates the vulnerability beneath her character’s abrasive exterior with real charisma. Her relationship with Eddy (Seamus Lavan), who arrives halfway through the play, is intriguingly rife with aggression and tension. Together, not only do they tackle head-on the destruction grief can cause, they offer a tangible sense of optimism.

Jobless Joe, played by Yash Saraf, provides necessary comic relief as well as believable angst, and his friendship with the homeless Carrie (Isobel Jesper Jones) is truly heart-warming. Carrie however, who opens the show with her inter-galactic monologue, is the only character you’re left questioning. Is she really delusional? If so, how will she survive when faced with cruel reality?

Experimental Theatre Club have a slick intensity which compels as much as it confuses. Director Sammy Glover is to be commended for her use of the thrust stage type space in the Pleasance Bunker – it was destined to a feeling of claustrophobia but the stage rarely felt still. Actors were amongst the audience, creating a physical involvement that then transpired to a real emotive affiliation.

With talented performers and a compelling script, Circleville Circlevalley tackles life’s knock-backs with brilliant dramatic creativity. It’s on late, but it’s a must-see at the Pleasance this Fringe.

Reviews by Sarah Gough

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The Blurb

Five individuals, united only by their dislocation and displacement from society, come together for drama therapy once a week. Sitting in a rundown community centre, some referred by professionals, some there by choice, these five people are asked to share their lives, their dirty laundry and their favourite flavour of crisps. As the weeks go by, they begin to recognise that a safe space only lasts while you’re actually inside it. Once the sessions are up for good, they’ll be spat right back out again, but whilst they’re here, they are not alone: you’re in there with them.