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Abigail by Fiona Doyle at The Bunker, London SE1

“ is a bleak representation of relationships and love”

As soon as you enter this venue, you can feel something special. It’s an old underground car park, magnificently converted into a theatrical performance space with a thrust stage and seating on three sides.

Artistic Director Joshua McTaggart, with the Executive Director Joel Fisher, turned this space around in nine months before embarking on their inaugural season. Abigail is the fourth and final production here.

Directed by McTaggart, it is a bleak representation of relationships and love. The characters, Man and Woman, meet on a snowy night in Berlin. They have a whirlwind romance and move in together. Within a year they are falling apart. He wants to leave. She won’t let him. But how hard should they fight to stay together? Is their relationship worth fighting for?

[Tia Bannon and Mark Rose]

Tia Bannon plays Woman, showing a range of emotions as we skip forwards and back in time, seeing the cracks appear. She gloriously veers from loving to violent in a heartbeat. Man (Mark Rose) is a simpler character. Rose is slightly hampered by Man being less interesting than Woman. He does have a tendency to play down a lot and sometimes he is too quiet, almost inaudible. (A warning for future performers here - this concrete box swallows sound. Actors must enunciate and project or risk being lost).

[Mark Rose and Tia Bannon]

Max Dorey’s design is as clever as it is practical. Props and costumes appear from and disappear into a variety of boxes. The characters climb all over them and, at one point, Man even has a shower! The set represents everything from their bedroom to a mountaintop as they jump in time and venue. This is one of the play’s weaknesses. Fiona Doyle has written the so-called ‘fractured timeline’, but I think it ends up creating a disjointed story, turning it into a collection of short sketches that last sixty minutes, ultimately destroying the rhythms and tensions Bannon and Rose work hard to create. I wonder if the piece could be stronger if the actors were allowed to build their characters’ heightened emotions in a more realistic order. The inevitable climax would be more shocking and heartbreaking.

One question I did ponder on my way home: why is the play called Abigail when the characters are called Man and Woman? Enigmatic, isn’t it…?

In the end, I think the winner on the night was The Bunker itself.

Abigail runs at The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU

until Saturday 4th February 2017: Tuesday-Saturday at 7.30pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm.

Tickets from or by calling 0207 234 0486. Priced at £19.50 (concessions are £15).

Twitter: @BunkerTheatreUK, #AbigailBunker

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