That’s the first word that springs to mind when looking back on the journey followed in Bitter Sweet. Writer and Director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir created a show that saw reality and fantasy twisted and contorted into a near horror story.
The venue, Discover 21 Theatre, was a perfectly intimate venue that provided closeness to the action that was necessary for this performance to deliver its full impact.
The set was simple, yet detailed. The hints of Steig Larsson’s influence on the script were mirrored in the set – his books featured on the shelves of the bookcase and were reflected in S’s character traits. A small fold-out sofa that sat stage-right was used in a variety of ways that kept the action from becoming too similar and repetitive.
Technically, this play was slick. The music was well-fitted to the rising tensions and served to heighten emotions – both loving and dark. The tone of the scene changed with the lighting cues which was a clever technique to keep the course of the play as disjointed as the relationship.
Both Kate Foley-Scott and Ben Blow tackled this difficult script with a tenacity that is commendable.
Depression and its effects on love feature heavily in this show. Foley-Scott was completely convincing in her portrayal of a manic depressive. Her pleads to be hurt were difficult to watch but impossible to look away from. Her character, known only as S, was desperate to feel anything, while inflicting nothing but pain on her partner. Despite her small stature, Foley-Scott offered a huge performance that was warmly received by the audience.
Ben Blow approached this play masterfully. His constant switching between the softly spoken, sensitive boyfriend and the angry, resentful, jilted lover was fascinating to watch. Blow owned the stage in both roles and that made for confident performance, even the most controversial scenes between the couple were grimly tenable.
The sensitive subject matter of sexual violence left the audience reeling; perhaps it really was too vivid and coarse. A less abrasive way to introduce the idea could have been to perform the scene in a black-out so only the voices could be heard. In all honesty, one scene was too graphic and uncomfortable to the point where it was unwatchable.
It would be wrong to say that this show was enjoyable – what with its dark content – but it certainly grips you. It was a shame that the audience were so few in number, but their appreciation for the performance was genuine and well-deserved.
Reviewer: Amy King (Seen 27 February)
Visit Discover 21 theatre here .