Theatre review: Inside

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Inside at Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14), reviewed by David Pollock

In a damp basement room lit by a naked bulb, a young woman of indeterminate age is reading a tattered old newspaper. It tells her of the horrors out there, of terrorists, gangs of hoodies, Michael Jackson in court “for doing sexual abuse to a 13-year-old”. “Bad things happen out there,” she tells the mouse scurrying about her feet, “it makes us think how lucky we are.”

Taking inspiration from the horrific stories of Jaycee Lee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch and Elisabeth Fritzl, actress and writer Rosie MacPherson’s new solo show is lent unwelcome topicality by the recent Ariel Castro abduction case.

Much like these women, her character is kept captive in the darkened anterooms of a house by a man who abuses her. An area of this prison is in her mind, her captor having assured her that by consenting to the abuse, she’s saving other girls from the same fate. She converses through the walls with girls in adjoining rooms who we never hear answer back, but she assures us he never abuses them.

The devil, quite literally, is in the detail, as MacPherson and director Ed Lilly (astonishingly, this is the award-winning short film director’s first stage production) have crafted a work which hits every beat beautifully.

We get to know the girl she once was, practising Spice Girls routines and nervously preparing for her school disco; the human she struggles to remain; and the perfectly wrought state midway between bargaining and anger that her life has become.

She believes the door has been charged with “enough volts to kill a horse”, that her video diaries are sent to her mother over the internet, and the fact she hasn’t been rescued a sign of her mother’s agreement that her sacrifice is right. “But where is the internet?” she puzzles as she looks at the ageing tape recorder.

It’s an incredibly powerful and emotional piece, which doesn’t flinch from the unthinkable, yet there’s also a haunting, tender sense of sullied but unvanquished hope. And be warned, there’s also horror as it dawns just how long she’s been here and how incapable she may be of escape, even when the opportunity is presented.

There can be few more involving or unforgettable character studies in Edinburgh this year.

Until 26 August. Today 12:15pm

Originally published in The Scotsman

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