Collapsible (Bush Theatre, Studio)

A monologue by a woman which verges on the confessional will inevitably be compared with Fleabag, but in Collapsible we find an hour-long piece which is thoughtful, gripping and powerful as it considers the realities of life under mental breakdown.

Essie is our host for the numerous short scenes and conversations pulled from her busy days: funny at first, as she’s personable, warm and chatty; slowly sliding into something different with odd behaviours and increasing mania.

I felt Breffni Holahan interpreted the central voice in Margaret Perry’s play brilliantly, especially as she collated the litany of words to describe her in a list which she is told “could describe anyone”.

Other voices are slightly less successful – there are many of them and it is easy to lose track. You can purchase a copy of the playscript to refer back to. This also helps appreciate the richness of the language and imagery that passes by in such transient moments.

Grit, sand and stones are evident both on stage and in the speech and manner we see in Essie, who shifts position on her small platform with each scene. She’s crumbling, crushed, rattling with the expectations placed upon her.

When, after one particularly angry speech about being a “militant perfectionist”, she is given an opportunity, she runs away. She’s restless, never staying in one place in her mind, brushing away negative memories of her failed relationship, her fights with friends and family.

Collapsible is a triumph of both the actor’s craft and the art of the monologue. It nudges the absurd and embraces the everyday, and each word has its place. It’s Beckettian and Pinteresque while having a life of its own.

Directed by Thomas Martin, designed by Alison Neighbour in a style which speaks of bomb sites and the post-apocalypse, lit by Alex Fernandes (one scene in particular is deeply disturbing and quite beautiful), Collapsible continues at the Bush Studio until 14 March.

Photo credits Helen Murray.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Collapsible.