BWW Review: ARMADILLO, The Yard Theatre
Sam (Michelle Fox) has been trying to deal with her traumatic past for most of her life. When another 13-year-old girl is kidnapped the same way she'd been, her coping mechanisms blow up and she goes down a spiral of obsession and angst. While her brother Scotty (Nima Taleghani) indulges her fixation, her husband John (Mark Quartley) tries to steer her back to their shared path of healing.
Witten by Sarah Kosar, Armadillo is a chilling portrayal of Trump's America. The couple are recovering from a sick addiction to firearms when the play starts; after a scarring accident, they swap their killing machines for Nerf guns, which become Sam's safety blanket as well as toys for them to strengthen their relationship. While their fascination with weapons was already bordering fetishisation, it explodes silently when Scotty comes into the picture and the kidnapping news break.
Sara Joyce's direction gives this dynamic a special focus in the show, with polished movement-lead interludes conveying specific compulsions and allowing the audience glimpses into the characters' psychological labour. The imagery used throughout is extremely effective and, combined with Jessica Jung Han Yun's lighting design and Anna Clock's soundscape, results in a visual and auditory feast.
Social media and the internet feature massively in terms of the overwhelming effects they have on a troubled life: information bombard the stage, taking over the bodies as well as the space, and heightening their sensible states. From the very start, the focus is aimed at addiction. Sam is haunted by the memory of her abduction and her need to feel safe; John is bouncing back from an obsession with arms.
Scotty acts as an echo chamber of vice, cosseting his sister out of guilt and enabling her toxic behaviours. Quartley and Taleghani pull Fox's character in opposing directions while she tries to cope and heal her wounds with a severely questionable approach. They all crave closure in different ways, showing the unhealthy reality of the lack of gun control in the United States with meticulous performances and aplomb.
The long-lasting effects of unaddressed abuse are also tackled by Kosar, whose writing is delicate and subtle in these regards. She depicts how external stimuli have an impact on the subconscious and inadvertently kick-start a regression which, if left festering, can lead to the destruction of the self. Joyce succeeds is giving the multiple reading layers of the text the same level of quality, resulting in a multi-faceted play.
The riveting direction blends with a perceptive script that presents an alarming issue under new light, making Armadillo a well-rounded show that's as visually compelling as it is socially engaged and touching. It highlights relevant matters and addresses mental health and abuse with tact and precision.
Photo credit: Maurizio Martorana