A feminist gem, Havisham is skilfully written and staged by Heather Alexander, directed by Dominique Gerard. Presented as a one-woman show, the production delves into the life of one of literature’s most famous anti-heroines, Charles Dicken’s Catherine Havisham, from childhood to the fateful moment that seals her destiny: being left at the altar.
Beyond a feminist parable, Havisham unveils a tale of trauma. The protagonist is haunted by a blend of physical and psychological violence that scars her young life, leaving her marked and forever altered. A victim of abuse and psychological harassment, the girl seems destined from childhood to desperate solitude until she meets a man who appears to offer her the redemption she has always sought.
Heather Alexander’s performance draws strength from her expressive eyes that dart and scrutinize the room with a hint of malice and complicity: they exude the curiosity of a child that evolves into disappointment, the hope and expectations of a young woman, and eventually the dimmed gaze of a condemned soul.
Trauma is rendered as an almost inevitable condemnation, resonating with echoes of the mythical story of Medusa, who, similar to our protagonist, is forced by the violence inflicted upon her to transform into a monstrous figure, ultimately forever severed from her humanity. Havisham stages it directly, giving it voice and shape: the character’s inability to speak, to even utter a sound – that crucial “No” – is depicted as an incapacitating facet, while a wooden ladder on stage becomes symbolic of her detachment from her own body, as she climbs it to gaze down upon herself.
A dense drama to be told in just one hour, which would have needed more scope, Havisham stands out for its original and skillful narrative craft, as if characters and atmospheres were drawn from the pages of a literary piece, while simultaneously, opening a poignant contemplation on the power of trauma over the psyche and body of its sufferers.
With a modern and innovative approach, Havisham brings the trauma to the forefront, moulding it into a palpable entity that demands attention and reflection.