This dark and powerful new play from Philip Ridley expertly examines the challenges of people freeing themselves from the past.

Chilling and moving in equal measures, there is no doubting Philip Ridley’s ability to create a piece of drama that is atmospheric and engaging to watch unfold.

For his latest play to be streamed online, Ridley takes us on teenager Toni’s journey as she goes on her first date with a boy called Michael – but what starts off as a charmingly awkward date soon transforms into something much darker. The audience then follows her journey as she struggles to deal with the trauma in the aftermath of the tragic incident that changes the course of Toni’s life.

At over an hour and 30 minutes long, this impressive monologue really delves deep into Toni’s mind and memories to offer an expansive look at just how powerful grief and trauma can be. It is not easy to bring this all to life, but director Wiebke Green cleverly employs a number of effective storytelling techniques in terms of the way in which Georgie Henley brings the characters and changing locations to life. For example, there are moments in which she looks at the camera, adding a confidential tone to the piece, while having her stand sideways on as different characters means the audience can use their imagination to bring the scene to life.

But of course, Georgie Henley’s performance is extremely impressive – in every character she portrays the audience really can see that character – the depth in which she embodies every personality including Toni’s brother and the rest of her family is really quite extraordinary. She delivers an absorbing performance that helps keep the audience guessing at the direction that the story is going to take next.

While it is clear pain and anguish lies at the centre of the piece, there is of course flashes as hope and love as well – particularly in terms of Toni’s relationship with her brother which is fractious at the start before developing into a warm and protective one. There is strong character development evident throughout that adds a pleasing extra depth to the story.

The only thing that I would say is that there are moments in which the story and script could be tightened up particularly towards the end – the descriptions of certain events are wonderfully vivid but it can sometimes feel as though it is a little distracting from the central plot.

This being said, Tarantula is an impressively powerful piece of drama that captures the attention from start to finish.

By Emma Clarendon

Tarantula is available to watch on demand through Stream.Theatre until the 30th June.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐