This one woman show is chilling to watch unfold, but the character herself is difficult to make sense of.

(c) Robert Thompson

Disturbing but compellingly written, Gabrielle MacPherson’s solo show depicts the horror of child abuse through the eyes of Willa who has spent most of her life been kept away from the outdoors.

Having just escaped from her abusive parents, Willa is now in a witness protection room attempting to find evidence of her existence – recounting her many horrific tales of what her parents put her through. It is a slow burner of a play that gradually ramps up the tension – but feels as though it leaves the audience with more questions than answers.

The way in which MacPherson explores this topic is very bleak but with a poetic way in which she describes some of her childhood experiences adds and eery quality that makes it compelling to watch.

However, it feels as though we are scratching the surface of Willa’s life up until this point – particularly in the way the monologue seems to jump from story to story with very little coherency. This could be a reflection of how damaged emotionally she is – but it doesn’t come across as though she is reflecting on her life just stating facts in a way that keeps the audience at arms length. Perhaps this sense of detachment (particularly early on) is completely understandable given what she has been through but for the most part makes it difficult to get a grasp on the character.

Directed by Karis Crimson, the whole piece feels haunting and atmospheric while ensuring that all the focus remains on Willa as she explores for evidence of her existence that leads to these chilling revelations being made. This is further helped by Ica Niemz’s set containing cardboard boxes, paper and a few toys – the only possessions and clues about her life Willa has.

It has to be said that Gabrielle MacPherson as Willa really highlights the complexities of the character and her emotional fragility with ease. Her frantic energy and general childlike mannerisms add a real sense of heartbreak to the situation. It is a suitably detailed performance.

Overall, Outside has its merits but it feels as though it could have gone into further depth in covering this subject. But there is certainly no denying that MacPherson’s approach is unique and draws the audience in effectively.

By Emma Clarendon

Outside has one more live streamed performance at 7.30pm today.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


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