Theatre review: The Believers at Tricycle Theatre

Chirstopher Colquhoun as Joff and Richard Mylan as Ollie in Frantic Assembly's The Believers

Chirstopher Colquhoun as Joff and Richard Mylan as Ollie in Frantic Assembly's The Believers - Credit: Helen Maybanks

Rain pours down and a flood of recriminations engulfs the lives of two families in this spooky expressionist thriller written by TMA award-winning writer Bryony Lavery and produced by Frantic Assembly.

After Stockholm and Beautiful Burnout, this is director Scott Graham’s third collaboration with Lavery and, not surprisingly, it’s just as visually impressive. With design by Jon Bausor and lighting by Andy Purves, visual effects are key components in this challenging spectacle that layers the text with as many dimensions as it is possible to squeeze out of the skeletal-frame set.

Two socially polarised couples manouevre the set throughout. There’s attractive, affable Joff (Christopher Colquhoun) with his outspoken, vulnerable wife Marianne (a shattering performance by Eileen Walsh) and their upwardly mobile neighbours: smug, philanderer Ollie (Richard Mylan) and his brittle, righteous wife Maud (Penny Layden).

Ollie and Maud live on a hill, never swear and have found God, or at least a pagan form of worship they insist on sharing with Marianne and Joff on the fateful night they take shelter there with their daughter.

As a thematic exploration of faith, Lavery’s text hits some histrionic notes. But there’s an ingenious synergy between text and spectacle and the tension never relents.

Who or what is responsible for the crime that is committed?

Can we ever really know someone and believe what they say? Ultimately, Lavery wants to have it both ways as she satirises the Christians but plays heavily on the supernatural for dramatic effect.

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But the questions raised here are huge and a production could so easily fall short. Believe me, this doesn’t.

Rating: Four stars

Until May 24.