Pros: This personal drama stands out for its political message.
Cons: Zimmerman’s notes on production indicate that the woman is determined not to be a victim, but during the play we see her entirely losing her clarity of mind with a nearly-irreversible fallout.Working as a teacher in a United States school, a woman (Polly Frame) develops a compulsive fear of falling victim to a shooting. She knows it’s only a matter of time before this happens in her establishment and she takes all the necessary precautions. She’s made an escape plan in her head and she sits at her desk on the edge of the chair, ready to sprint at the first signal of alarm and barricade herself inside her office. She’s even put a mirror in a strategic point, to see who’s walking along the corridor. ‘The Catalyst’ – as she calls the student who appears like a potential attacker – could be any young man in her class, so she refrains as much as possible from giving negative feedback, afraid to trigger any unstable mind.
When the report of a shooting in a local elementary school hits her, though, she realises that they are talking about her son Michael’s school and he is among the victims. Left alone to sink in grief and with too many tormenting questions about her child’s last minutes alive, she clings to the only companion that seems to keep her going: a weapon identical to the one used for the massacre.
Addressing the audience directly, she barely moves in Frankie Bradshaw’s chilling set, which has a number of white light tubes scattered on stage, to represent the innocent victims of an easily-made killer.
Writing in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – in which 28 people were killed – playwright Martin Zimmerman joins the chorus of political activists calling for reform of US gun legislation. Since then, there have been more than 130 firearm incidents in US schools and campuses, and over 30 deaths recorded in the first six months of this year alone. Making his lone character go from never having held a gun to owning one in the space of minutes, Zimmerman gives a powerful example of the difference between legality and morality, although her neurotic response makes her less credible than she might otherwise be.
Author: Martin Zimmerman
Director: Christopher Haydon
Co-Produced by: China Plate and Audible with New Theatre Royal Portsmouth
Box Office: 0131 228 1404
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/on-the-exhale
Booking Until: 26 August 2018