Do you believe in the spirit world? If you could talk to the dead, might it change your life?
Steven (Gary Kitching) is a small man in a stifling job, who visits a psychic (Tessa Parr) because someone gave him a gift voucher. He’s sceptical, uncomfortable, hunched and nervy and literally wrong-footed by her fey new-age mannerisms. She pulls his aura like taffy, twinkles about like a ballerina doll and jumps off furniture. Their interaction is a hilarious mismatched tango – until a final piece of abrupt advice from her spirit guide tips him into anxiety. When the prediction seems to come true, he comes back and we see their relationship evolve over several meetings, as Steven becomes more enamoured with the psychic and her beliefs. Each time he leave, he sheds his jacket, putting on a new one when he returns. They lie around the stage like skins he is shedding, or parts of himself he is losing. Each meeting is separated by a strange red-washed interval where Steven paces out his discomfort at the margins of the stage while the psychic occupies it, dancing her weirdly naive dance to the sound of Elvis (that great ambassador of the Realm Beyond). It’s clear that this is not going to end well. Maybe you can even guess what might happen if an emotionally vulnerable person is encouraged to believe that they too have the gift of communication? The audience can see where it is headed, not with the stale predictability of a cliche but with the dreadful inevitability of a tragedy.
Kitching and Parr are both tremendous in this, their physicality is pitch-perfect. Kitching in particular basically gives us a masterclass in how to ramp up status just through body language. Initially, he is so far down the food chain that it is easy to ignore him, the whimsical Parr is so much more charming and compelling. But by his character’s final manifestation, he is as riveting and chilling as a psychopath. This was a flawless production, as far as I’m concerned, worth every penny.