The Wasp

The Wasp
By Morgan Lloyd Malcolm. Crying Chair Theatre. Directed by Richard Cotter. The Hidden Theatre, New Town, Tas. 2nd to 6th August 2023

The Tarantula Hawk is a wasp with one of the most painful of all insect stings. When paralysed, the tarantula becomes a living food source to the wasp egg planted within its abdomen. This play by UK playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm is equally appalling and fascinating.

Sydney based performers Emma Dalton (Carla) and Mel Day (Heather) co-founded Crying Chair theatre in 2017. Their goal is to provide opportunities for artists, crew & creatives at all levels & create theatre that is meaningful, relevant & accessible through diverse stories and characters.

Initially, audiences might struggle to identify with the paranoid and highly strung Heather, who on the surface appears to lead a successful life. By contrast, Carla is a battler whose only redeeming feature seems to be highly efficient ovaries. As more ugliness is revealed and the characters are further exposed, Heather and Carla also become more sympathetic. The Wasp is about the hurts we carry into adult life. Lloyd Malcom asks audiences why people have children and what it is to be a good or bad or simply, indifferent, parent. It is about childhood friendship and schoolyard bullying and the disproportionate influence of juvenile betrayals on adult neuroses. Moreover, it is about the larva pupating over the course of a lifetime that will inevitably be born, excised or consume the host.

The Hidden Theatre is an intimate venue in which to view this two-hander. At Heather’s instigation, the two old school friends meet in a café. The audience is privy to the conversation as if they are imbibing at an adjacent table. Heather and Carla are so different that the meeting is nearly terminated several times until Heather offers Carla a sum of money for an unusual request. Struggle street Carla is tempted.

Through subsequent meetings the audience learns the history of these two unlikely collaborators. The power dynamic shifts several times. Past grievances are uncovered but as the action progresses, burying the hatchet seems increasingly elusive. There are enough twists and shocks by intermission to fuel engaged speculation over a glass of wine, but there is nothing to prepare the audience for the climax of the final act. This is a terrifying psychological thriller which also has great dialogue and a substantial dose of black humour.  It is an uncomfortable ride but a train wreck from which it is impossible to look away.

Dalton and Day are more than equal to the significant demands of the script. They work so well together, one might suspect they were enjoying themselves (as good friends and collaborators ought). Their synergy is palpable. Dalton and Day are dedicated to their craft and to the integrity of the characters they portray.

The set was simple, almost stark, with the visual image of the Tarantula Hawk front and centre. Costumes contributed to the rigid and conservative image projected by Heather and the careless unselfconscious scruffiness of Carla.

The Wasp is a fine script delivered by two excellent actors. Hobart is privileged to have Crying Chair come to Hobart.

Anne Blythe-Cooper

Photographer: Elouise Martin-Jones


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