This darkly comedic two-hander plunges us straight into the aftermath of a murder in the Scottish Highlands. Gemma and Will argue and reminisce as they wait for darkness to hide the body, a darkness which never comes this far north at the solstice. Ably played but oddly discordant, this piece writhes and twists but ends with a satisfying thud.
The careful spinning of Will and Gemma’s backstories obliges me to avoid any more detail on the play’s content. The strength of the writing lies in the long game - the payoff is we collect fragments from which to construct the characters. Where it falls down is its line-by-line changes of tone, as we bluster from fright to tears to ‘just kidding’ without pausing for breath. With clumsy swearing, the language failed to ring true in what is admittedly an uncommonly high-tension situation.
Will was played by Mark Kydd, who gave a good turn as the burly Englishman. The character had to encompass his darker, violent side whilst blithely cracking wise, which left his comedy a little stilted. It takes a twisted mind to make toilet jokes at a murder scene and Kydd gave force when needed but never a murderous glint. Annabel Logan excelled as Gemma, with her doleful eyes and childlike sobs. Her brokenness was pitched perfectly to give credence to her erratic behaviour, without overstepping the mark. Together they created an appropriately odd couple - plausibly implausible, with his towering strength and her emotional manipulation.
Solstice boasts one of the more lavish sets I have seen in smaller theatres this year and the lighting evoked a mysteriously endless twilight. Not infrequently there were major sight-line issues, with the mid-stage sofa unclear through the head of the woman in front of me and even the cadaver obscured to all but the front row. Lacking focus but chilling - and packing a killer ending - Solstice offers a solid, intriguing hour.