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Review: Theatre

Helen

Helen

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

AT first it chirrups along in e-mail exchanges. Henry's a publisher, Helen's the first-time writer of a children's fantasy adventure which has all the makings of a money-spinning successor to the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Despite their online chumminess (kissy-kisses and smiley emoticons), Helen remains adamantly reclusive so, just as writer Thomas Eccleshare intends (and deftly engineers), we smell intrigue and possibly a rat.

Phase two reveals a truth. Several, in fact. You'll have guessed that Helen is herself a figment of the writer's imagination but the reasons for the demure smokescreen are as appalling as the unstoppable commercial juggernaut that nonetheless rolls on.

The public has erupted in self-righteous outrage at being sold a scandalous lie (Henry's own children have been targetted) yet the same public still wants to read the final episode of the fantasy.

By asking: "Is it the story or the story-teller we buy into?", Eccleshare leads us into a brilliantly contrived quagmire of uncomfortable issues where self-deception jostles with conscience and the moral high ground slips further out of reach. And not just for Henry.

If this searingly fine co-production (with Bristol's Tobacco Factory) has felt like a staged radio play, that changes with a barn-storming twist where the cast - Timothy X Atack and Charlotte Melia, directed by Valentina Ceschi - re-enact the closing moments of the film spin-off. Young heroine Greta confronts her evil nemesis.

But escapism has a reality check: Greta discovers how there is a dark side lurking in all of us and she's not guilt-free either. Like Greta, or Helen, what lies would we tell in hopes of forgiveness? It's one of the strongest lunchtime offerings this season: go.

Sponsored by Heineken

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