The Human Ear

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis in 'The Human Ear'
Richard Davenport Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis in 'The Human Ear'

A new play from Paines Plough writer Alexandra Wood.

Alexandra Wood’s new play starts off a family drama, turns into a ghost story with a psychological edge, then transforms into something entirely different. ‘The Human Ear’ shape-shifts: it’s a slippery piece that keeps us guessing right up until the very end.

When Lucy opens her front door to her brother, he’s angry with her and she’s shocked. They haven’t seen each other in ten years and now their mother has died in a violent incident, Jason has returned to their family home. They bicker on the doorstep and eventually she gives him a key to the house. But later, Lucy’s boyfriend offers irrefutable proof that the man who came to her door is not Jason.

‘The Human Ear’ has some subtle and strong observations about the nature of sibling relationships, and the dialogue is well written. But there are too many questions left unanswered. We don’t ever get to the bottom of who the man is at the door, how he knows so much about Jason and why he has decided to pay Lucy a visit. The play revels in its oblique nature, but when an answer is finally offered, it’s half-baked. The denouement is rushed through and we’re left feeling a little cheated.

George Perrin's production is, as usual on Paines Plough's portable Roundabout stage, reliant on simply the actors. In the round space the excellent Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis perform each of the characters. Wood’s script moves back and forth in time and current conversations are interrupted by snippets of remembered ones. Perrin creates these moments by a surge of noise and a light change and it holds the tension well – we’re there with the characters as their memories return to haunt them. The tension is high throughout ‘The Human Ear’. It is an undeniably compelling show, though ultimately a little unsatisfying.


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