And She Cried Mercy promised to be ‘a dark comedy of institutions, booze and boob jobs’ and it certainly lived up to its claim. This play is funny. I am not ashamed to admit that I was one of many laughing along throughout the play. Admittedly my roommate wasn’t laughing quite as loudly, but some of the jokes weren’t for the squeamish.
The play follows two parallel pairings of characters entering new stages in their lives: Belinda and Jenny, and Anthony and Colin. Jenny —played brilliantly by Emma Taylor— has recently experienced a change of fortune and is starting a new school that bears some resemblance to Hogwarts (or so she thinks), whilst Anthony is introduced to his new cellmate after being sent to prison. In their new ventures, they each meet interesting new characters: Belinda, head girl at the prestigious all-female school Jenny has just enrolled in, and Colin, a character who is, at best, difficult to describe.
The minimalistic set and clever use of lighting highlighted whichever duo was being focused upon, avoiding confusing transitions and allowing the audience’s attention to stay on the witty dialogue that flew between actors. The script was fast, intense and really displayed the actors’ depth of talent.
Baxter Gaston was incredible as Colin, which was not an easy role to play by any means. As I already mentioned, I cannot summarise his character in a few lines. In fact, I probably could not even do it in a page. Rory Mackenzie, who wrote this amazing piece, has created a wonderfully complex character that delivered some of the best comic lines in the play. My second mention definitely has to go to Emma Taylor as the incredibly funny Jenny.
But then And She Cried Mercy approached its end and, just as I thought I’d figured it all out, it surprised me yet again. This play handled some serious and slightly gruesome issues with tact and skill, demonstrating that the cast’s skill was not limited to comedy. Even though some of the more graphic scenes occurred offstage, they were still disturbing and perhaps not for the fainthearted. It was in these grittier moments that we got to see the incredible talent of the actors to their fullest extent.
Photo credits: Lee Pope, and PINUP