Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

Three stars

Rubbing salt in the wounds is a survival mechanism for the young woman cowering under the kitchen table below stairs in Fiona Oliver-Larkin’s solo show. First seen earlier this year as a work in progress at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Manipulate festival of visual theatre, Oliver-Larkin’s piece sets out its store in a fairy-tale world, where she creates her own epic fantasia using a kettle, a coffee cup and a rusty vacuum cleaner to act out a war not of her making.

Wooden spoons are lined up like toy soldiers, but they aren’t any kind of defence against the monster that pounds the floor above before invading their space. Even the stuff they help feed the young woman with is a life-sapping lie.

Made in collaboration with director Al Seed, Oliver-Larkin’s wordless creation makes for a troublingly fantastical 45 minutes. Pasty-faced and vintage-frocked a la classic mime, Oliver-Larkin’s creation is a doll-like Rapunzel kept under lock and key in a solitary state, where the mind can only run away with itself so far.

A conscious sense of darkness pulses Oliver-Larkin’s performance, which sees her embrace the strangeness of the bubble she occupies with a creepiness that resembles one of David Lynch’s early short films. This effect is punched home even more by a soundscape that stabs out noises off worthy of a Hitchcock thriller. The fact that the show’s most obvious antecedents come from film sources heightens the expressionist relish with which it is played out, even if it is just a few days too late for Hallowe’en.

What remains by the end is a story of demons possibly slain, in which the abused princess in Oliver-Larkin’s tower somehow manages to transcend her nightmare. After all that, the fruit that finally gives her the nourishment she needs can’t help but taste bittersweet.