Pros: Fantastic performance of an imaginative plot.
Cons: The ending is a little drawn out.
Kathryn Griffiths is one of those rare performers that have the power to completely embody any character. It’s rare to see a one-woman show that so fully gives the sense of many different personalities interacting. Griffiths is also the mastermind behind the outlandish yet endearing plot of Fierce.
Young Felicity, full of anxiety about the pressures of school and an overbearing family, may have murdered her stepfather. She runs away to London before she can find out for sure. There she meets a very posh homeless lady with rabies called Maggie May-Lynn, who decides Felicity is just the fresh young blood she needs to start a new brothel. On her quest for some clientele Felicity meets Melbany, the Australian barmaid, who shares a flat with Finn. Finn is a gloriously moody artist who hasn’t produced any new work in six years although she has slept with a parade of alluring models. Including her patron’s wife. Inexorably, all these personalities (and a range of smaller but no less bonkers ones) are drawn together for a moment of transcendent revelation. Or possibly just some drugs and sex.
For a play that involves so many dark themes, the writing has warmth towards the characters that keeps them likeable even in their terrifying and ridiculous moments. Maggie May-Lynn is a great example: if you met an elderly homeless woman and found out that she’d killed two people by locking them in a barn and setting it alight, you probably wouldn’t want to be friends with her. But she turns out to be remarkably good at romantic advice and at scoring free champagne, two qualities I find indispensable in my nearest and dearest.
All the characters are just as richly drawn and full of potentially sinister foibles, yet we come out rooting for them each time. Griffiths makes their motivations so genuine and understandable; the two things that motivate us all; fear and love. In the end it almost doesn’t matter what kinds of weird behaviours they’re getting up to as a result of those motivations, they still seem believable.
The performance’s success also owes much to the richness and variety in Griffiths’ physicality and voices for each character, which keeps the energy high throughout.
Anna Reid’s design elements and Christopher Nairne’s lighting make crisp transitions between different locations, helping to keep the sense of momentum clear through the show. The paintings in Finn’s apartment and Maggie May-Lynn’s box house are particular highlights. Keeping the staging active and varying perspective from time to time really helps the sense of space and gives discrete room to each character.
If I had a tiny gripe about the show, it would be that the closing scene continued past what seemed to me like its natural ending. Not far past, really only a few lines, but enough to shift a sense of closure to one of anticipation of a new chapter coming. The characters are so enjoyable that a second installment of their adventures would be welcome, but I’m not sure if that’s the intention of this ending.
Fierce is a remarkable piece of work, both the writing and the performance. Catch it while you can.
Written and Performed by: Kathryn Griffiths
Director: Celine Lowenthal
Produced by: Heloise Werner
Design: Anna Reid
Lighting Design: Christopher Nairne
Box Office: 0207 419 4841
Booking Link: http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/showTickets.php?show=580
Booking Until: 19 October 2014