Unhinged Creations’ production of
Although this may not be the most succinct production, by the end the characters’ struggles do feel real.
The premise of this new play by J. C. Servante is as follows: James has died, leaving his ex-girlfriend and friends to work out exactly why and how. Gradually, more is exposed about the deceased, leading to the sinister final outcome. As expected, the tone of the performance is bleak. Due to a rather complicated backstory, the central theme (what happens when someone who suffers from mental illness goes through life unsupported) is only fully realised in the second half. At different points, Unhinged Creations use stark white, coldly staring masks to convey the the characters’ struggle. Although this has no doubt been done before, the change in the focus of their eeie whisperings is cleverly done here.
Regrettably, Phantom Pain is hindered by the script, which seems lengthy and half-hearted at times. This is particularly felt in scenes in the first half , where a more succinct style would pack a punch and turn the longer, dragging scenes into some of the most memorable.
The acting, too, is a bit of a mixed bag. Helen Bychawski as Jenny, is the saving grace of this performance, and by far the most believable of the cast. Although she takes a while to find her footing, by the end she is hugely effective in portraying this downtrodden character as she lies slumped on the floor, defeated. She carries the poignant ending and works well with Richard Babatunde Odufisan (James). However, these performances contrast hugely to the others’, who are flat in their delivery and unrealistic in their mannerisms.
The profound and heartbreaking end rescues the slow start, but a few changes in script and more thorough characterisation in places could have make quite a difference overall. Although this may not be the most succinct production, by the end the characters’ struggles do feel real.