The Hen and Chickens Theatre
With the connections the rise of the internet and especially social media have brought, it is easy for people to find and reconnect with old classmates. In recent years, I’ve even had random Facebook messages from someone I went to school with many years ago. Carla (Jennifer Thornton) recently got such a message from Heather (Tegan Verheul) and the pair agree to meet.
When they do so, it is clear that their lives have taken different directions and there is a large gap between their current circumstances. Heather is married, well dressed, a nice home and money. Carla is expecting her fifth child and works at a supermarket. She also has issues with rent along with a partner who gambles. It’s obvious that the stereotypes and the contrasting costumes are very deliberate choices.
However, all is not as it seems. Instead The Wasp quickly takes a very dark turn and leads us into very heavy territory. Themes of bullying, mental health and sexual assault come to the fore as we learn more about the women’s schooltime relationship. Distinctly still traumatised by past events, Heather has hatched a plan. As she thinks back on the actions she knew Carla was capable of years ago, Heather believes she can set Carla to a task now for a large sum of money. Some of this does stretch credibility. This dark comedy written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm has a twist followed by another twist and a final twist that is unfortunately too predictable. However the relationship between Carla and Heather, both past and present, is intensely believable.
It also helps that Verheul and, even more so, Thornton are fantastic. Each woman is, in turn, sympathetic, making it easy to empathise with both… well until certain events become vividly clear. Even when silent, due to some very specific circumstances, Thornton is fantastic and brings her all to the performance. The duo raise questions of whether bitterness and resentment can lead to violence and revenge, or can they instead lead to forgiveness and kindness? Leaving aside the choices this play makes within its story, it makes plain that there are alternatives for all of us.
I mentioned receiving a message from someone I went to school with a long time ago. I ignored it and so, unlike Carla, I did not end up reliving my school days. I bet Carla wishes she ignored the message too…
Written by: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Directed by: Wendy Bollard
Produced by: Bold House Productions
The Wasp plays at Hen and Chickens until 06 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.