Writer: Frank McGuinness
Director: Lia Williams
Reviewer: John Roberts
From the first syllable to the final blackout, something powerful takes hold of you; it keeps you within its grasp and never let’s go. Undeniably the Liverpool Playhouse have possibly crafted the closest thing to theatrical perfection in the latest world premiere to grace the intimate Playhouse Studio stage.
Closing in on you like a predator, McGuinness’ prose is deep and passionate, it is heartbreaking and refreshing; and like the teeth of a tiger on a deer, it pierces far deeper than you ever expected. Keeping true to form McGuinness has written a female protagonist that is ridden with angst and emotion, and it takes a performer with precision and delicacy to bring the part of Sal alive with such beauty.
Intimacy is the key in The Match Box’s success, here is a performance that needs the close connection between text and the actor, and between the actor and the audience, and thankfully Lia Williams’ production has that throughout. Never will I experience the grief of a mother losing their daughter to such tragic circumstances, never will I truly understand what thoughts one will experience or think until one faces those demons in person.
Giving the performance of her life, Best embodies the tormented rôle of Sal with a magnitude that words cannot do justice, from her fragile frame to the hollowness in the eyes, her portrayal of a mother on the brink of emotional destruction transcends that of any performance I have seen.
A fitting set designed by Colin Richmond beautifully reflects the inner turmoil of Sal; empty and derelict, stark and haunting and yet perfectly befitting to the feel of the piece. Meticulous attention to detail from director Williams means that every movement, every inflection and breathe from Best has a resonance and reason.Atmosphere is created flawlessly thanks to a subtle lighting design by Charlie Lucas, never impinging the action on stage, but skilfully saying ‘I’m here.’
Zipping along, The Match Box never lulls you in a false sense of security, this is a rollercoaster ride full of Pathos. It would be wrong to say the production is all doom and gloom, in fact it is quite the opposite, full of dry humour you will find yourself laughing when you least expect to.
Now would be the time to get online and book your tickets for this production, as a sell out won’t be too far behind. Great theatre should impact you long after you have left the theatre, it should stay with you for years to come and between the trio of McGuinness, Williams and Best that is what The Match Box will do and I can only pray it has a life after this, its debut run.
Photo: Christian Smith
Runs until 7th July 2012