Naomi Westerman’s one-woman play looks at life after being kidnapped and held captive, not only whether you can live a fully normal life but the world’s expectations and preconceptions about what happens and who it happens to.
Alice (Eleanor Crosswell)is in her early twenties, living in her own flat and when she was 13 she was kidnapped. We aren’t given many details of the kidnapper or even how she came to be in that situation after a relatively privileged life but it is full of detail. The KFC in Egypt where her parents worked, the TV in the spare room she was kept in, her escape attempts-both successful and not. It is about belonging and whether Alice can truly belong in a world that would rather make assumptions about her than listen to her.
It is a beautifully engaging performance from Crosswell as a woman who has had to grow years after her peers. There is a beautiful line where she asks if anyone knows how to put on eye liner because she never did the make-up experimenting we do in our adolescence (as an aside I am not sure I know how to put on eye liner and I am nearly 30!). It is also a damning comment on people’s attitudes to kidnaps and specifically the gory details, in a world where misery biopics have their own section in Asda. Why do we want to know? Is it any of our business? You can see the character’s reluctance to exploit in a world where you then become the property of a different kind of kidnapping.
It is a very strong piece from Westerman, who recently wrote a piece about writing sex on the stage for this blog, and great to see an all-female creative team as well as some stunning lighting in this small space. It does leave you wanting more and depending on your level of patience and love of mystery this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is in keeping with a character who is going to be closed off, who has had therapy to come to terms with what has happened to her and what may happen to her in the future but it did leave me wanting a prequel.
Claustrophilia was on at the Vault Festival between 17-18 February. Naomi Westerman’s second play of the festival, Puppy, 23 Feb and 2 March