Thin Walls - Review

Anita Sullivan's play tells the story of a wife escaping from the trapped life of her marriage. Like Shirley Valentine she talks to the walls but there the parallel ends.

Whilst Shirley found sunlight and happiness on a Greek Island the woman here flees from the comfort of a nice detached house to a grotty bed sit where the walls are far from being friends. Rather they become objects of torment with strange noises and a woman's voice seeping through them.

The play is an interesting and intriguing study of a person undergoing what appears at first to be a nervous breakdown with moments of humour and startling force. The writing keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the evening. As the play moves on it becomes apparent that the woman's condition is more than just a breakdown. In fact she is schizophrenic and paranoid. The walls, being in the end perhaps, a metaphor for the division between sanity and madness.

If there is one criticism it is that the ending is a little obscure and needs some more work on it. What are we to believe when she crashes through the wall, re-emerges and declares herself free? How had she achieved this freedom? There had been talk of methods of suicide so were we to believe that she had killed herself by smashing into the wall? If the breaking through the wall was symbolic of the woman escaping from her madness and returning to normality then how was it achieved? What "light on the road to Damascus" event had occurred? Talking with fellow members of the first night audience afterwards it was apparent that they were similarly puzzled.

With the part especially written for her, Alexis Hills gave a veritable tour de force performance switching as she did from sane and rational narration to the volatile paranoia of her alter ego. Her depiction of the meetings with the woman on the other side of the wall was both mesmerising and shocking.

Whilst this was virtually a one woman play credit must be given to Eleanor Gamper for effectively providing both the noises and the voice behind the walls.

Barrie Jerram
7th April 2005