Many of us may consider the last twelve months locked inside our homes as a pretty miserable existence, but Gabrielle MacPherson’s new solo play, Outside, explores an even more wretched way of life. Livestreaming from The Space, a result of the circumstances that see all of us spending less time physically outside, this dark and traumatic monologue grasps difficult themes with a firm hand.
Willa hasn’t been outside on her own for thirty years, but now finds herself in a witness questioning suite, recently released from the iron-like grip of her abusive father and manipulating mother. Surrounded by piles of paperwork and childhood mementos, Willa, is by her own admission, searching for testimony of her own existence, while the audience get a glimpse of what has led us to this point.
Through the hour-long monologue Willa recounts stories from her childhood, often prompted by the evidence that threatens to overwhelm her. For all the horrors her childhood encompassed, these are times that Willa seems to cling on to, perhaps unable to move beyond the teacher who showed her affection, or the toys that kept her company. But even with this infantile outlook, there’s an anger simmering, keeping us ever more intrigued.
It’s by no means an easy story to stomach, Willa describes her fear of the ‘bad’ outside, heightened by her mother’s gaslighting, but it’s the damaging family relationship indoors that drives this monologue. MacPherson’s writing builds this up slowly, revealing each new snippet of information with an eerily casual tone, making it all the more shocking.
The vulnerable adult we see before us is played with a childlike innocence, the tone of voice and physical manifestation present us with a multi-layered character that we pity and come to fear in equal measure. Playwright Gabrielle MacPherson also takes on the role of Willa, that obvious connection to the script makes for a compelling performance and as an audience we are drawn in to the very depths of the story.
Director, Karis Crimson matches the pace of performance to that of the script. The speech pattern, slow and steady to begin with, accelerates as we near the chilling climax. Additional voices come from a Dictaphone and a PA system, perhaps these would have been more impactful to an audience inside the theatre, but were difficult to decipher via the livestream.
Despite the limitations of performing in an empty space, Outside does better than most at connecting with its audience. The multi-camera set up gives a varied viewpoint, but it’s the acoustics and occasional squeaking of the floorboards that reminds us MacPherson is performing live from an actual stage, and there’s still something quite thrilling about knowing we’re watching live theatre, especially with the proliferation of pre-recorded work in recent weeks.
Outside is a cleverly written thriller that keeps its audience gripped. It would almost certainly have a greater impact on an in-person audience, but when a livestream is the only option, then this production masterfully takes control and presents us with an accomplished piece of live theatre.
Outside streams from The Space 18th – 20th February 2021