We review playwright Holly Robinson’s Soft Animals at the Soho Theatre
Words Donna McCafferty
Soft Animals at the Soho Theatre written by playwright Holly Robinson, and directed by Lakesha Arie-Angelo, tells the remarkable story of two broken women who unite through a shared experience that teaches them about life and what it means to overcome pain.
Set in contemporary London, we meet two women, Frankie played by Bianca Stephens and Sarah played by Ellie Piercy. Both of these women come from very different worlds, Sarah is your confident well off Londoner disguising a troubled mind while Frankie is a vulnerable lost student from Birmingham, struggling to cope with the stresses of university life. We understand that they have been brought together in unusual circumstances by a traumatic accident in which we have to piece together with abrupt sentences and sudden memory flashbacks.
The atmosphere is intense, they have so much to say that they run over each other sentences and yet we fail to comprehend what experience they have been through.
Designed by Anna Reid, this intimate space is very ‘soft’ to contrast the not so soft plot of this extraordinary play. Oval-shaped carpet aligned with an oval light above and an array of soft furniture, the women explore the space in a childlike fashion moving fluidly through various periods of time. We witness each complex emotion from sheer euphoria to complete and utter torment in this playpen environment. A rawness resonates with moments of delicate silence when the women discuss personal tragedy and notions of self-destruction, and then with a sudden sharp movement, we are in a nightclub in Clapham enjoying the fun and fooling around that female friendship brings.
The performances by both actresses are top notch, powerful, emotional and tear-jerking paired with the fact that you are belly laughing at the extremely funny lines in the play. This play explores the complexities of the human mind, particularly the female mind and how we in most instances, punish ourselves with painful flashbacks and re-enactment of agonising experiences.
The journeys these women go through with the restorative support and love they have for each other teaches us that in a world full of suffering, true friendship and strong female connection can empower you to overcome just about anything.
Soft Animals is on at Soho Theatre until 2 March; sohotheatre.com