EV Crowe's elliptical new play follows a woman's quest to be a non person
Brenda is waiting. Not for Godot, although Beckett definitely haunts EV Crowe’s searching new play. No, Brenda is waiting for her boyfriend to stop pestering her. Brenda is waiting for everyone else to catch up and realise, already, that she is no longer a person.
EV Crowe has won awards aplenty for her work and it’s easy to see why: her writing is intense, probing and almost perversely unknowable. ‘Brenda’ is not an easy play to watch. The two characters, Brenda and her boyfriend Robert, refuse to be pinned down; the context swings between concrete and abstract and the dialogue roams about restlessly, tripping over dead ends, repetitions and non-sequiturs. It’s elusive as hell but it’s properly intriguing.
Director Caitlin McLeod and designer James Turner have kept things simple and the stage is basically bare, except for a few chairs and a battered-looking sound-desk. We could be anywhere and, as Brenda (Alison O’Donnell) waits for her boyfriend, it feels like we’re in another dimension. O’Donnell looks perpetually astonished, as if she can’t quite believe she’s still on planet earth.
Brenda’s boyfriend Robert (Jack Tarlton – deliciously difficult to read) arrives and the two circle each other warily. We eventually discover that they are waiting to meet with the local community and ask for assistance with jobs and housing. But Brenda isn’t interested. Brenda would rather be a ‘non person’ than live her life this way. It’s an interesting premise and questions of identity quickly spring to the surface. But we have spent such a long time circling around the edges of ‘Brenda’ that, by the time we find her, we’re all a little knackered.