Poison proves ‘there is a huge amount of local stage talent out there’

OVO and Duality Theatre present Poison at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans

OVO and Duality Theatre present Poison at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans - Credit: Maltings Arts Theatre

Madeleine Burton reviews Poison by Duality and OVO at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.

It may be called Poison but there is nothing venomous about the current production of Lot Vekemans’ mesmeric play at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.

For Poison, by an award-winning Dutch playwright, deals with grief in all its aspects and how, although it has its title for a more obscure reason, mourning can be poison to a relationship.

And it is the perfect vehicle for new theatre company Duality who are staging it in collaboration with OVO.

Poison is based on a simple premise – a couple whose relationship falls apart after the death of their young son in a road accident come face to face with one another after 10 years.

The reason for the meeting is somewhat spurious but their analysis of the relationship, its one-time happiness and how to deal with terrible grief results in a spellbinding 90 minutes.

And it really makes you think how you would deal with such a situation – the measure of a first-rate production.

Most Read

Vekemans does not name the former husband and wife – they are just He and She.

When we first meet them She is the more confident of the two but as the play progresses, the baton changes hands many times.

Sarah Priddy as She and Simon Nicholas as He are perfectly cast.

These are not easy roles, relying as they do on tears as well as laughter, perfect timing and the need to make the audience believe they really are devastated parents who have found different ways to cope with their heartbreak.

But they carry it off triumphantly as not only their grief but also the impact of their former shared lives and their separation is laid bare.

As Vekemans herself says, the spoken language can reveal both what you want and don’t want to say.

To their credit, directors Amy Connery and Steph Jones also allow what are sometimes only small moments or slight facial expressions to speak for the characters as well.

Poison is played out on a sparse stage with just four white blocks – there is nothing here to distract the audience from the two actors and their predicament.

And the production proves, as so many have recently in St Albans, that there is a huge amount of local stage talent out there which deserves continued support.

• Poison can be seen at 8pm from Thursday, January 24 until Saturday, January 26, when there is also an afternoon matinee at 3pm.

Tickets can be obtained from the OVO website www.ovo.org.uk or on Ticket Source at www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/hertfordshire/the-maltings-arts-theatre-st-albans/poison