REVIEW: The Poltergeist, Southwark Playhouse (Online)

This frantic, fast paced monologue is filled with pain in a performance that is a force to be reckoned with.

It has been a while since I have seen such an angry, emotionally complex monologue delivered with such a powerful energy as is on display in The Poltergeist.

Written by Philip Ridley, at the centre is Sasha a talented artist who is addicted to pain killers and being forced to attend a birthday party for his niece along with his boyfriend Chet. Along the way we meet a number of characters who all get under Sasha’s skin in a variety of ways, as they force him to confront his past self until a tragic event forced a change in his character and personality and leading to estrangement from his family.

Directed in a simple and direct way by Wiebke Green, the intimacy in the way in which it is has been captured on screen makes the audience feel the full force of Sasha’s anger and resentment. In particular the hugely climatic outburst towards the end  is extraordinarily powerful as he lets loose everything that he has been holding back in his inner monologue while trying to be polite to the party guests on the surface.

Throughout, Ridley’s use of language is aggressive and sharp in a way that can make the audience wince in places as the story unravels as to why Sasha is the way he is. But it is also a very cleverly constructed monologue as it switches between his inner monologue and feelings to straight forward narrative. The switches between conveying the variety of characters, Sasha’s internal turmoil and understanding how the party unfolds is impressive – even if the speedy way in which it is delivered can be overwhelming.

As well as being about family tragedy, grief and talent that isn’t used, The Poltergieist also cleverly concentrates on how memories can become distorted over the years. This is seen as various guests including Sasha’s brother talks about a particular school mural, with Sasha trying to correct them – can we really trust memories particularly when they affect the outcome of events in the future?

Putting in the most extraordinary and blistering performance I have seen for a while, Joseph Potter completely inhabits the role with an energy that is impressively kept up with throughout the performance. At first, the character comes across as unfeeling and disconnected from the world, but Potter soon unveils a personality masking a lot of pain through his disdain. This subtle vulnerability soon draws you into his world and feelings and it is mesmerising to watch.

The Poltergeist is an intense experience, leaving you feeling drained, barely allowing you to draw for breath. However, it is the dynamic performance of Joseph Potter that keeps you compelled to keep watching until the very end. It is an impressive piece of theatre.

By Emma Clarendon

The Poltergeist is available to watch online until the 7th March.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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