BWW Reviews: CUDDLES, Ovalhouse, May 15 2013

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Career woman Tabby uses her new management position to exact revenge on a colleague who had wronged her. She sends a charity collector to hospital with a stamp on the foot merely for his impertinence. And she has a secret sister locked up in the attic of her large house in Essex.

That sister is Eve, imprisoned with her only knowledge of the world coming thorough fairytales and Harry Potter, her life measured out in petty rules and counted heartbeats and her only food packets of supermarket sandwiches. And her sister's blood - for Eve is a vampire.

Joseph Wilde's new play concerns control and freedom. Every minute of Eve's life is controlled by Tabby, but she is much more free than her sister because she loves every second of her time with Tabby, especially the cuddles. Tabby believes herself to be free, but her life is ruthlessly controlled, not by another, but by her own neuroses and unresolved conflicts with her parents. It's the Jeremy Kyle Show live from a Transylvanian-themed attic in Loughton.

Though there are moments of dark comedy, a sense of inevitable tragedy permeates our intense hour in Eve's decrepit bedroom. Rendah Heywood, looking like Snow White's evil stepmother in her Dolce and Gabbana and Manolos, gives a strong performance, but it is Carla Langley, as unkempt, barely clothed little matchgirl Eve for whom the audience sigh when she gets her cuddles only at level one. It's a performance that marks her out for bigger roles in the future.

Arch 468 aims to make challenging theatre and Cuddles certainly delivers that brief. Whether its message is a little too heavy-handed and its drama a little too one-paced may be debatable. What's not debatable is the commitment shown by two actors with their emotions dialled up to 10 for over an hour without a break.

Cuddles continues at Ovalhouse until 1 June.

Photo credit Alex Beckett

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From This Author Gary Naylor