Production Photo: Steffan Hill
A quietly appealing, stripped-back monologue piece with beautifully understated performances, Marie Jones' Dear Arabella, directed by Lindsay Posner and staged at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, earns considerable power by depicting and intertwining fresh, forceful perspectives on three interconnected lost souls.
Admiration, frustration and entrapment bring the narratives of Jean (Katie Tumelty), Elsie (Laura Hughes) and the titular Arabella (Lucia McAnespie) together in a one act, ninety-five minute play. In front of the sea shore, a minimalist backdrop of calm serenity given life by Fergus O'Hare's sound and Peter McIntosh's design, each actress takes her turn to step forward and respectively illustrate the lives of a maid, usher and aristocrat, a trio divided by class and social status but united by longing and incompleteness.
Their touching and sometimes amusing delivery of Jones' language - which is more reserved than usual - provides Dear Arabella with multiple layers, sharply illustrating the line between affection for the other and protection for the self. In its exploration of acclaim, desire, discovery and preservation of identity, Dear Arabella subtly unveils the human urge to liberate oneself while retaining those keepsakes, and feelings, that make each of us unique.
While a longer running length might have given each woman's story a little more time to stretch its legs, the tautness of Posner's direction is nonetheless a more worthy challenge for his actresses, commendably strengthening their resolve. Thus Posner ensures that the inner and outer characterisations of dear Arabella, Elsie and Jean fully bloom, highlighted, as they must be, by the artifacts and landscapes that surround them and the turmoil and angst within them.
Marie Jones' Dear Arabella opened the Belfast International Arts Festival (#BelFest2018) and runs until November 10th at Belfast's Lyric Theatre. For more information click here.