Upon entering the auditorium, the stage is set up exactly like you’d expect a student’s bedroom to look like. With an unkempt bed, a desk with a stack of books and an ever-growing pile of laundry that completely captures the essence of a struggling student. Lighting is used effectively well, with warm colours to represent the happier times and blues to represent the more solemn times. There’s a really effective moment towards the end of the play in which Simon’s mental health is deteriorating. Here, James’ incredible acting is complimented with a pulsating light which grows until it becomes completely overwhelming. Sound design is key in complimenting this piece of theatre, with sound effects of doors slamming and the general hustle and bustle of student accommodation. Solemn musical interludes support the scene changes well.
Phillippa Lawford must be commended here for writing a piece of theatre that is incredibly stark and somber, not shying away from getting really deep. Direction of this play allows the actors to fully demonstrate their thoughts without saying a single word, and the actors do a tremendous job of creating intense and thought provoking moments with just their actions and gestures. This play is cleverly directed to show the impact of serious mental health, in which the moments of complete joy and serenity can be completely overcome by a sudden darkness.
However, whilst the first act is completely punchy and impactful, the second act seems to get a little lost in translation. Whilst James still does an incredible job of portraying a serious decline of mental health, the direction just seems slightly scatty and a bit all over the place. The play concludes abruptly with a blackout and the lights go up, leaving the audience confused and looking around to see if we should clap.
Overall, Ikaria is an incredibly raw and brutal exploration of mental health struggles, supported by an incredible cast and lovely theatrics that perfectly contribute to the storytelling.
This show was reviewed on the 19th September 2023. Ikaria runs at Theatr Clwyd until the 20th September 2023. Tickets available here: Ikaria | Theatr Clwyd.
Full tour details here: new — Tightrope. (tightropetheatre.co.uk)
Review written by Vicky Humphreys
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton