A bestselling children's author has a secret to hide in this twist-heavy show from Dancing Brick
I’ve been putting off my review of Dancing Brick’s ‘Heather’ for a few days now because it's a bit of a bugger to work out what’s reasonable to actually say about it – the twists comes think and fast in a show about identity, performance and authorship that’s ripe for being undermined with spoilers.
‘Heather’, written by Thomas Eccleshare and directed by Valentina Ceschi, is divided into three stylistically divergent parts. The first is a sort of epistolary drama in which performers Ashley Gerlach and Charlotte Melia read out the correspondence between Harry, a smooth-talking literary agent, and Heather, a reclusive author who has penned a Harry Potter-esque work of Young Adult Fiction that soon rockets to the top of the bestseller list. But Heather won’t meet Harry – or make any public appearances at all – and I think any audience member with functioning braincells will pretty much figure out that she is Not All She Appears To Be. More than that, though, is probably unfair to say, at least in terms of hard plot points.
What ‘Heather’ does very well is to go beyond simply offering ‘a twist’, but to challenge audience assumptions about who gets to tell stories. In some ways the form is as important as the story, and it is important that the performers are a man and a woman, black and white, and they do not necessarily stay in the same roles throughout.
What it does less well is tell a story with nuance – the big twist is so big that it is in danger of amplifying the play’s provocations into bombast, while the excerpts we hear from Heather’s books just feel a bit naff.
Still, it’s consistently thrilling and stuffed to the gills with ideas that resonate perfectly with the big themes of identity at this year’s Fringe.