“The world is chaos. Chaos and pain. Is it worse than it used to be? Perhaps. Maybe. Probably.”
Mag lives in a cottage in the snow-covered wilds of Canada, somewhere outside of Whistler, revelling in the silence. That is until Beth turns up. A ball of energy, she demands tea (Tetley), a bed for the night, food, a “proper drink” and attention, attention, attention. Mag tells her she has to leave. She has to hush and she has to leave. And so an extraordinary story unravels.

Mag is Beth’s mother but they parted years ago and vowed never to see each other again. It is hard to explain the play’s title without a spoiler alert, but suffice to say neither woman has behaved perfectly, either before their parting or since. Beth is freshly out of prison, where she both enjoyed the book group and enjoyed learning 101 different ways to kill someone.

What does evil look like, asks writer Oliver Emanuel? Does a monstrous parent inevitably create a monstrous child? Is the creator, Frankenstein-like, exonerated of any responsibility for their creation? Or is cruelty no more than nature’s response to competition? So far, so heavy but in fact, this script is acerbic as bitter lemon and defiantly funny.

This is a taut, tightly orchestrated thriller with a theme that reverberates throughout the script as a macabre drum beat. Director Gareth Nicholls brings all the restraint that made Ulster American magnificent to this feisty and occasionally vicious script. Superb sound design (Oğuz Kaplangi) cranks the tension up as the two women confront the questions left unanswered for too long. And Cécile Trémolières’ set, in all its ursine glory, is a thing of fittingly understated beauty.

Christine Entwhistle (Mag) is wholly convincing as the woman who shuffles through life, trying to consign the past to the past. But when faced with temptation, her nature (or nurture) crashes over her like a tidal wave. Charlene Boyd as Beth is ebullient, effervescent, alarmingly unpredictable. But beneath the bravado, we see enough of her broken heart to at least, sort of, understand.

These are two storming performances in a perfectly polished production. At an hour and ten minutes in length, don’t be surprised if it pops up again in the 2020 Fringe. In the meantime, it’s a deliciously spooky way to get your pulse racing this Halloween.