Al Weaver, Alice Krige
The Arts Theatre shut its doors in July 2008 after the last play to grace the stage, All Bob’s Women, was mauled by critics and closed after only six days.
Now the historic venue (Peter Hall directed the premiere of Waiting For Godot here), has been refurbished and is open to the public again.
Given the way its reputation nose-dived over recent years, it needed to come back with something resembling a bang and the psychological thriller Toyer seems a solid enough choice. It’s not exactly up there with Godot, but then few things are.
The play, which is based on actor Gardner McKay’s best-selling novel of the same name, is a tense two hander about a psychologist, Maude, who is treating the victims of Toyer – a disturbed man who cuts out parts of the brains of young women, leaving them unable to talk or move.
A strange young man, Peter, turns up at her house offering to help fix her car, but soon outstays his welcome and leaves Maude frightened but also intrigued by his charming and dangerous nature.
Peter, played by Al Weaver, is jittery, twitchy type who initially comes across as an insecure twenty something but becomes increasingly manipulative and unnerving. Though Maude finds him unsettling, a sexual tension slowly builds up between them.
As Maude, Alice Krige is versatile and watchable. Her character at times seems to be losing her mind, but by the end of the play she sees her role in the world clearly.
The action plays out in Maude’s chic, sleek LA flat and the set is slanted in a way that adds to the skewed feel of the piece. Director William Schoular does a great job of transporting the audience into a different world where fear of the illusive Toyer is everywhere.
The narrative is suitably twisy and contains some proper shocks. It is, at times, confusing, leaving you unclear as to Peter’s true identity. However the pace and the manner in which the plot unravels keeps the audience gripped.
This is murky stuff, not for the faint hearted, and many may find it distasteful but it does the job it sets out to do and benefits from two stong central performances.