Three appears to be the magic number this week; as with last night's "elliptical triptych," tonight's show features three apparently unconnected stories, although Mark O'Rowe's verse play Terminus actually gets round to resolving the plot, and interweaving the events of the three monologues, taking place over one night. A (Olwen Fouéré) is a middle-aged teacher, whose attempt to help a former pupil in trouble drag her into a nightmarish journey around Dublin that sees her frequently beaten up. B (Catherine Walker) is a younger woman who spends the night flying over the city with a demon who's escaped from Hell. And C (Declan Conlon) is a smooth-talking, Bette Midler-loving serial killer. Jon Bausor's (who designed KURSK) set is an enormous shattered mirror with shards flying out over the audience, and three larger ones on the stage which the actors sit on until it's time to resume their part of the story.
An hour and 50 minutes without interval is a bit long for this kind of format and at times my attention did waver - O'Rowe's verse is lovely and well-delivered but it does have the side effect of lulling you to sleep a bit. That's all I can say against the show though really as this strange urban fantasy of redemption and reincarnation is really rather satisfying. The language goes from the grisly¹ to the lyrical and by the end I found it quite moving, helped by the performances (which the playwright also directs.) There's also the odd touch of very dark humour, particularly in C's story. A big hit for the Abbey Theatre which they've kept reviving since 2007, this international tour is Terminus' first London outing and a well-deserved one. I always take it as a good sign when there's a lot of audience interest in the playtext programme after the show, suggesting they'd like a re-read.
And if you've ever wondered how actors cope when they have to sit still on stage for up to half an hour in plays like these while the others do their bit: Fouéré's gentle snores tonight might provide a bit of a clue.
Terminus by Mark O'Rowe is booking until the 16th of April at the Young Vic's Maria.
¹interesting to notice that during one particularly gory scene of violence, despite the fact that you can't see it and you're just imagining a scene you're hearing described, many audience members' automatic reaction, including my own, is to look away