LITTLE ONE at the Brewery, Bristol

Little One Image Graham Burke crop

Directors’ Cuts is an annual season of contemporary theatre presented by the four graduating directors from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Returning to the Brewery Theatre for the second time, and with all four plays directed by women, the season opens with Little One.

This two-hander is a powerful and unsettling psychological thriller about two adopted children raised by desperately well-meaning parents in a quiet and very respectable suburb in Ottawa. Now a trainee doctor, the adult Aaron (Sam Woolf) takes us back to scenes of a fractured childhood. He is a good kid; his sister Claire (Kate Cavendish) most certainly is not. Deeply disturbed as a result of sexual abuse, we see that Claire is dangerously unpredictable, and any progress she is making towards normality seems painfully slow. Family pets suffer untimely deaths, and her classmates at school are frequently assaulted. The unseen parents have made it all too clear that Claire’s needs are their priority and Aaron is expected to be supportive. The adult Claire recalls a very different narrative, describing in some detail their next-door neighbours, a paunchy IT technician with a pretty Vietnamese mail-order bride. Claire wonders what kept this odd couple together. Surely it was not love? We wonder why she is telling us this seemingly disconnected story, but she seems to have an obsessive fascination for it.

Sam Woolf is utterly convincing as a dutiful brother stressed to near breaking-point by the ghastly behaviour of his mentally ill sister. Kate Cavendish is equally convincing as a girl with a chillingly amoral indifference to the suffering of those around her. She gives Claire the dreadful innocence of someone who has no concept of right and wrong. Both actors switch from their adult to their child roles and back again with great skill. This is a deeply dark piece, though it is not without black humour, such as when Aaron tells us that he has fond memories of family gatherings – in E.R. Director Laura McLean has ensured that the dramatic tension never flags, and there are some decidedly edgy and disturbing moments. When we finally discover the significance of the next-door neighbours’ story we also discover that we have been watching a tale of betrayal and revenge. Little One places very considerable demands upon its two young actors, and they respond magnificently. This is a gripping production that gets this year’s Directors’ Cuts season off to a flying start.   ★★★★☆   Mike Whitton   30/04/15

Photo by Graham Burke

 

BRISTOL OLD VIC THEATRE SCHOOL GRADUATE DIRECTORS’ SEASON
The Directors’ Cuts season is a programme of contemporary theatre presented by the four graduating directors from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and featuring work by acting and production students. See the page dedicated to this event linked from the slider on the home page.