These Demons - Theatre503
A murky foray into Jewish demonology
Grounded in identity and family, Rachel Bellman’s new play is an engrossing journey into the seldom-discussed world of Jewish demonology but loses focus as the narrative attempts to intensify.
After her Aunt Mirah is attacked and hospitalised, Leah tasks herself with finding the culprit and passing revenge. Inspired by the mystic writings and teachings of her aunt, the plan takes shape, despite the attempts by her older sister Danielle to coax her home but as darkness settles over the surrounding woodland they begin to question whether they are alone in the house after all. Is something more sinister watching them?
Olivia Marcus leads the piece as Leah, her pin-point precise sarcasm on full display. She captures the angst of the teenager nicely, the need to prove and define herself strong but the longing for a role model to follow ever-present. She finds a version of that in her Aunt Mirah performed by Ann Marcuson, the two neatly parallel one another - both a little different but unashamed of their identity. Marcuson does well in managing Mirah’s complex history, imbued with her individuality and care for her niece. As Leah’s sister, Liv Andruiser is excellent as Danielle. The two clash wonderfully, from their friction-inducing personalities right down to Danielle’s well-thought-out outfit and Leah’s odd socks (clever costume work from Sophie Firth). Andruiser provides plants the piece in an accessible reality, her fear and panic delightfully unnerving as her stoic and calm presence steadily crumbles.
Much of the spookiness is driven by Niamh Gaffney’s sound design, the unnatural noises gradually making themselves heard above the organic soundscape. Books about Jewish exorcisms are piled high in the dingy space, lit eerily by Skylar Turnbull Hurd, but the limited playing area offers minimal opportunity for movement under Jasmine Teo’s direction but the piece still strides on regardless. Sophie Firth’s set is simple but adept, the mesh walls proving a useful tool in the creepy timbre of the piece - hints of otherworldly movement peeking through.
Despite the overall quality creative work presented the script cannot provide the needed foundations. Though intelligent and seriously funny, it never quite lands as expected. It hints and nudges towards poignant issues but fails to draw us in beyond a superficial level. Meandering plot points are not resolved leaving a somewhat unsatisfactory aftertaste and a disappointing tinge to what has the potential to be a spellbinding, riveting evening of theatre. More work is needed on this one.
Running until 14th October - Tickets
Photography - Lidia Crisafulli