Drink connoisseurs will enjoy the selection on offer in the Rosemary Branch, a charming pub that was buzzing with the relief of a Friday night drink. Tucked away next to the bar and up the stairs is an unexpectedly cosy and intimate theatre. On my visit here for Outside it’s quiet, maybe not even half full. But there was the taste of anticipation regardless, possibly spilling over from the pub downstairs with a bit of noise leakage that I happen to enjoy (and if you don’t, get over it, you’re in a pub not the Old Vic). Those empty seats were a shame, though, because it means more of you missed out on a great experience.
Outside is written and performed by the admirable Gabrielle MacPherson – a single-actor performance that promises ‘horrific revelations’, and boy does it deliver. She sits in a plain dress covered in a bit of red spatter reading papers furiously as we walk in, boxes of documents, books and toys all around her. Within moments we know that all is not as it seems. Willa hasn’t left her house for 30 years, kept from the ‘bad’ outside, and she is now sifting through boxes of secrets and memories. Slowly the story of how this child-like woman got to this room comes to light. It’s hard to say much without spoiling things, and the play is so cleverly written that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. It’s safe to say though that Willa’s journey is not a happy one – take the theatre’s content warnings of abuse and violence to heart.
Suspenseful hints are given to the audience, and along with the inspired writing and skilful performance, it all comes together as uneasy feelings soon build to horrified ones by making us curious about Willa. Who really are her parents? Why does she have to make her own hands to hold? And why is her bedroom leaking? Brief moments of Willa talking directly to the audience help to draw us further in and make the story gruesomely impactful. Prehaps the only real issue being that there were times where the pacing of the child-like speaking made some potentially important moments feel a bit skipped-over, and so some elements may have lost their explanation.
Congratulations to MacPherson for both writing and performing something terrifying yet heart-warming, chilling yet sweet, fantastical but devastatingly believable. I’m sorry to have seen all the empty seats, but you sold it completely to us who were there, and I for one will be keeping an eye out for when you’re back.
Written by: Gabrielle MacPherson
Directed by: Laurel Marks
Produced by: Adwoa-Alexsis Mintah for Minty Fresh Productions
Outside originally played as part of the London Horror Festival, prior to its run at Rosemary Branch Theatre. It has now completed its current run. Check the production company’s Facebook page for further information, via the below link.