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The Deep Space, Old Red Lion Theatre

Lila Whelan

Directed by Claude Girardi
★★★★
Pros: An intelligent script with an excellent set of performances behind it.
Cons: An emotionally involving play; the content can be hard to swallow.
Our Verdict: Highly recommended if you are looking for gripping, poignant theatre, but not if you are looking for a light-hearted lark.
Courtesy of Sprocket Theatre
The Old Red Lion is a pub-theatre with a reputation for delivering great shows. It boasts several West End transfers, such as a recent production of The Importance of Being Earnest which had a successful run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket this time last year. With this is mind, the bar is high for shows which are performed here, and this must have been particularly daunting for Sprocket Theatre, who have brought a piece of new writing to the North London venue. I am glad to say that they did not disappoint – The Deep Space is an intelligent, emotional and thoroughly well-produced piece which leaves the audience reeling.
Sprocket Theatre’s offering does not offer any belly-laughs. No, this is a heavily emotionally-involved production, which truly challenges the audience. The plot revolves around a young mother, Sam, whose family – husband and two young children – are burnt alive in a fire at her flat. A young psychiatrist is called in to speak to the young woman, and through their discussions the audience relive elements of Sam’s perturbed existence in an effort to determine exactly what happened on the night of the incident. This is not easy viewing – Sam’s abused childhood and the difficult marriage she ends up in are some of the more poignant episodes. The play ends on an emotional cliff-hanger, and I would challenge any audience member to walk out of the auditorium unshaken.
The play, as mentioned previously, is a piece of new writing by Lila Whelan, who also portrays the central role of the psychiatrist. The script is very brave: it cannot have been easy to write such an emotionally involving play. Despite this difficulty, Whelan’s work is extremely well-crafted and intelligent, and even if at times it is not easy to watch, it certainly keeps the audience on the edge of their seats from start to finish, and keeps them guessing until the very end. Whelan is certainly one to watch, and The Deep Space proves her ability to write with passion and eloquence, even when dealing with difficult topics.
Whelan is also excellent as Caitlin the psychiatrist; at times cool and in control, at times hardly able to contain herself, this character really drives the action in the play. Director Claude Girardi must have faced a particular challenge in directing the writer of the play in her own show, but by all accounts he has managed to deliver a compelling performance from each actor, including Whelan. Abbiegale Duncan, as Sam, also gives a subtle and at times gut-wrenching performance – hats off to this young actress for mastering this daunting role. And it would be impossible to overlook the all-important supporting performances by Sarah Fraser and Oliver Yellop. All in all, the cast work together seamlessly to draw the audience into Sam’s living nightmare, and this is one of the reasons that the show works so well.
In the end, The Deep Space leaves little room for criticism. The set and staging are well designed, the performances are gut-wrenching and the script is intelligent and expertly-crafted. It was not perfect – there were a couple of slip-ups here and there – but overall, The Deep Space is an excellent production. But it does come with a warning: this is not easy viewing, and the content can be difficult to deal with. This is not the show to see if you are looking for a jolly night out at the theatre, but if you are looking for poignant, gripping theatre, then book your tickets today.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Deep Space runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 9th March 2013.
Box Office: 0844 412 4307 or book online at

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