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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

ROBIN/RED/BREAST AT AVIVA STUDIOS WITH MAXINE PEAKE - not simply entertainment, but an excellent piece of theatre and very thought provoking.

Review by Eileen Earnshaw and Seamus Kelly


This was our first visit to the amazing space that is Aviva Studios. The entrance is wide and welcoming. It is an interesting building and well worth a visit, there are tours available during the day on request. The staff were friendly and helpful.


ROBIN/RED/BREAST is performed in the round. Seating was wooden benches, the back row only having a support.


The deceptively simple set consisted of a cottage made up of the timber framework with just a few necessary props. When the action moved outside the cottage was lifted high above the stage and real water fell from above for the scene with heavy rain. The overall effect was great and the whole audience could see and feel engaged throughout the play.


Once the audience were settled the lights were switched off creating almost complete darkness which was the signal to put on the headphones which had been distributed on arrival. During the first part of the performance, a stream of consciousness internal monologue with very effective sound effects was delivered via headphones. Whilst the pre-recorded thoughts and sound effects were played, Maxine Peak, in the role of Norah, acted without speaking. “Acted” is perhaps underselling her performance as she conveyed emotions from joy to sadness and horror through expression and movements any dancer would have been proud of. While Norah prepares food, cleans and moves around the cottage she becomes more and more concerned about who is watching her and what is happening. All of this is perfectly timed to fit the recorded sounds in our headphones. This is superb performance.


The play is a re-imagining by Daisy Johnson of a 1970’s “Play for Today” by John Bowen. This particular production from Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom, Imogen Knight, Daisy Johnson and Gazelle Twins, mixed live music from the all-female brass band, featuring Tyler Cameron, immersive storytelling, and the manipulation of time.


Norah is a city dweller who has moved to the country seeking a new, more meaningful life after a break-up. The peaceful village is not as it seems, and Norah finds herself trapped in a nightmare.


The opening sequence features the band moving in line round the cottage. The musicians are dressed in modern show-band costume, but the music had an ancient, medieval undertone, setting the play firmly in context of the folk horror genre. The old stories of mythological beliefs and fears that can be found in a community that has held onto its beliefs in the old gods with rituals and offerings to be made to ensure the survival of the isolated community. These rituals required that a woman, in this case Norah, should be impregnated by a young man who has been nurtured and cared for by the villagers with the sole purpose in life of fathering a child to be harvested as sacrifice. To that end the villagers ensure Norah is looked after to remain well and healthy, so that any child born is also strong and healthy. Such a child would be a fitting sacrifice to their gods.

With the villagers closing in, Norah must fight for control of her body, fertility and her physical and metal survival as she is gradually dragged into this this parallel world of mystery and intrigue.


Will she escape before the harvest?


Maxine Peake, portrays the collision of our modern digital world with a mystical and dark past we would sometimes rather forget. The final scenes bring us back into the modern world with a discussion of some of the current issues raised by the story.


This show is not simply entertainment, but it is an excellent piece of theatre and very thought provoking.


The whole of the cast and production were excellent.


Until 26 May




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