26th September 2017
Presented by Open Clasp Theatre
Written by Catrina McHugh
Directed by Charlotte Bennett
Rattlesnake - a venomous snake, with a potentially deadly bite, makes a noise like a rattle to ward off its predators. Snakes are hypnotic creatures, not all are dangerous, but some are. The rattlesnake is dangerous and duplicitous, rattling to warn you that it is there, rattling to make sure you don't interfere.
James rattles. He rattles to control the women in his life, he rattles to keep the neighbours at bay. He rattles to protect himself while he destroys the lives of two women.
This play is mesmerising - from the start, as the two characters beat out a complicated, rhythmic pat-a-cake game, through to the closing scene of this story that has no end. You daren't look away, because you never know what might happen while you are not paying attention.
Rattlesnake is a fictional drama based on truth, an amalgamation of the stories of many women who have endured coercive controlling domestic abuse. Eilidh Talman and Christina Berriman Dawson play the two women snared by one man - James. Together they bring to life the horror and insidiousness of the control he exerts on them. The two women at times speak together, at other times they repeat each other's phrases, marking the parallels between the way their two relationships develop and disintegrate as James manipulates, coerces and threatens them into submission.
The set is simple and stark - the outline of a box-like room, table and chairs. The open sides are symbolic - despite external appearances the women are trapped, unable to escape a prison that most people are not aware of. The single overhead light flickers ominously, brightening and dimming as the atmosphere tightens, and bright floor lights flash like lightning bolts to emphasize pain, or danger or the sudden realisation of a truth. In the background a quiet hypnotic beat echoes the pat-a-cake game and the rattlesnake's warning.
This is superbly directed, produced and acted. The two actresses are utterly convincing in their roles. It is emotional, taut, intense.
Writer Catrina McHugh says "I believe Rattle Snake is important theatre, it takes your breath away and will change lives." Throughout the performance there was barely a sound from the audience - I think we were all holding our collective breath.
Rattle Snake is at Live Theatre until 30th September and then goes on tour around the region so there are plenty of opportunities to experience it. It is important theatre. Don't miss it.