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Here Be Monsters

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In the Weeds at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, on Wednesday, June 8. Review y Jon Lewis

Mythological creatures haunt Joseph Wilde’s gripping new two-hander, In The Weeds, directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord for An Tobar and Mull Theatre. Coblaith (Carla Langley) is a young woman who loves swimming in a volcanic crater loch on an island off the Scottish coast. A descendant of the island’s original natives, she is feared by the locals who blame her for the drowning of a six year old child. She becomes friends with a visiting Japanese limnologist, Kazumi (Jamie Zubairi) who is older than her, and who says he is there to codify and catalogue flora and fauna but his secret is that he is a monster-hunter.

Kazumi and Coblaith bond over tales of myths involving the supernatural. He explains patiently about how his Shinto religion includes the belief in the spirits of living and inanimate things whilst she regales him with harsher Scottish myths of human-killing animal-monsters – kelpies and selkies – siren-like in their appeal. Kazumi believes in these creatures too, because when he was a boy, he was convinced his brother, and his father, were drowned by a Japanese sea monster who dragged both down under the waves. The same fate awaited his wife many years later. He could save none of them because he never learned to swim and has a phobia of the water.

The play has a Hitchcockian, Vertigo-like feel to it with Kazumi’s dread of the water – a strange fear for a limnologist, Coblaith points out. Coblaith spends a month reducing some of this fear. She uses seduction and fierce invective to get Kazumi to the point of paddling in her loch. The fascinating relationship between the two becomes a game, each revealing the presence of demons, both characters prey and hunter.

Designer Kenneth MacLeod’s circular pool dominates the staging (the front row gets splashed), while Benny Goodman’s evocative lighting design and Ailie Robertson’s score enhance the edgy atmosphere. In the Weeds is an unforgettable show, with Zubairi and especially, Langley, outstanding.

I expect Carla Langley will be a name on casting director’s lips after the company’s month-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.

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