Tweetingit: 3* A solid two-hander focusing on a couple thrown together by circumstance; the realisation dawns on them they both have mental health issues. Excellent character acting compensates for a painfully thin plot.
Mental health is sadly a poor relation in the strife-ridden NHS. So it is refreshing to see a play addressing the issue with the support of leading charity Mind. In the shadow of the mountain may have drawn some inspiration from a Canadian film bearing the same name. The film explored disassociation and how depression can transform our vision of the world.
The play follows a similar theme as two lost souls collide in the midst of a mental health crisis. The story begins supposedly at a train station. Ellie (Felicity Huxley-Miners) literally throws herself on top of Rob (David Shears) convinced he is about to take his own life. Rob, confused and diffident is immediately smitten by the attractive, chatty Ellie. She wastes no time in probing the thoughts of a total stranger. Their relationship develops at a rapid pace as their mental frailties become all too obvious.
The Old Red Lion Theatre is the perfect setting for a play that draws on the juxtaposition of audience to performance area. It adds to the drama of what is a solid, well-constructed production. However, the storyline is disappointingly thin and lacks real depth. It’s difficult to see exactly what Ellie and Rob have in common; both emotionally scarred by unfaithful partners and mentally fragile. But more of a backstory would have qualified the characters and aided the narrative. The acting is sound, but the play’s focus was on Ellie and not Rob, whose main purpose was to act as a willing foil. It seemed obvious that she was bipolar; swinging from complete elation to total despair. In contrast, we never really learnt anything as deep about Rob because he was never given the space. So, we understood more about Ellie than we ever did about Rob; and remains the biggest weakness in an otherwise decent play.
Author: Felicity Huxley-Miners
Director: Richard Elson
Producers: Instinct Theatre & Quantum Frolic Theatre
Box Office: 0333 012 4963
Booking Until: 2nd June 2018