Review: ★★★★ Collapsible, Bush Theatre

Review: ★★★★ Collapsible, Bush Theatre

In a Fleabag-esque turn, Breffini Holahan plays Essie, a woman struggling to keep going after losing her job and her girlfriend, as her mental health deteriorates.

Holahan is positioned throughout on a raised concrete ledge, an analogy for Essie’s current state of mind whilst being a beautifully striking set piece from designer Alison Neighbour. Alex Fernandes’ lighting design compliments Holahan’s vivid physicality, as she guides us through Essie’s various interactions with her sister, her sister’s boyfriend Derek, friend Liz, exes, potential employees and her inner self; as Essie tries to compile a list of words that summarise her ready for job interviews.

Writer Margaret Perry simply underlines Essie’s current state by comparing her to the state of a collapsible chair. As we slowly see her begin to witness this collapse, Holahan glides with expertise between Essie’s light and shade: the light of her taking internet quizzes to find out what John Hughes’ film she is, to the dark of trying to internally deny her mental health issues in front of her ex-girlfriend Caroline.

The frustration of the search for help, love and acceptance is prominently potent in this production. For anyone who has suffered with mental health issues, struggled with maintaining relationships, and has had to job hunt for a long period of time can relate to Essie on a hermetic level. The audience empathy with Essie makes the denouement, where Essie finally gains a moment of connection and understanding from another person, both satisfying and heartrending.

Perry’s exploration of the ebbs and flows of mental health, through the ethereal performance of Holahan, is one to be beheld.

 

Niamh Flynn

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