The Maiden's Toy

With hints of Black Swan and Inland Empire, Olly Lawson’s new play is a surprisingly arresting example of student writing. The narrative was gripping, but both the performance and the writing could have gone further into the dark and obsessive territory the play hints at.

The concept is engaging, and the tension begins to mount near the end of the performance.

Georgie (Merthie Taylor) is a maverick director, who unexpectedly chooses diamond-in-the-rough Jenson (Ryan O’Grady) for the leading role in a dark melodrama. As their relationship becomes worryingly intense, Georgie will go to increasingly disturbing lengths to hone Jenson’s performance, until the lines between himself and the abusive husband he portrays on stage become increasingly blurred.

All of the acting was commendable, but occasionally a little tame for Lawson’s dark narrative. O’Grady is very good at playing the posh, bashful Jenson, and his performance in rehearsals as Nabis mostly has the kind of intensity that it requires. There’s little sense of the transition between the archetypal ‘nice guy’ he initially appears and the more disturbing sides of his character exposed later though, and both Lawson’s writing and O’Grady’s performance could have done with giving Jenson a few darker shades.

Taylor as Georgie often seems overly chilly with sometimes overdone RP tones, and a lot of the time her obsession with Jenson is portrayed by some pretty obvious, personal-space-defying blocking rather than anything more subtle. Cameron Beer’s Milo is very convincing as the moral heart of the play, with a satisfying arc from pretentious Assistant Director to a man on the edge of panic at the dark turn the production is taking.

The concept is engaging, and the tension begins to mount near the end of the performance, but Lawson could have done with taking the idea further. It felt like if the story had been given longer onstage it could have been a darker and more convincing psychodrama, but instead it occasionally felt a bit hesitant. Much like Jenson, the cast and crew could have done with surrendering to some darker impulses to truly deliver a shattering drama. 

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The Blurb

An ambitious director will leave no stone unturned in her production of a fiendishly difficult and disturbing play. The Maiden's Toy features a fast-moving account of the weeks leading up to the unveiling of her new production and focuses on the director's increasingly twisted relationship with her young leading male. New writing exploring the pursuit of perfection and the boundaries that must be crossed to achieve it.

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