Heartbreak is a universal experience, the majority of us have had that Bridget Jones moment: lying on your bathroom floor, eating Ben & Jerry’s out of the tub playing Adele on repeat. This was more evident than ever at The Cockpit Theatre where the audience almost instantly related to the characters on-stage.
Henna Night, written by Amy Rosenthal, was first performed in 2001, but its themes and narrative have not aged at all. After all, betrayal and romance have been explored throughout history from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde. The fast-paced dialogue of Henna Night is witty and engaging and the text cleverly explores the tension between two women, one stolen life, and one life built in the shadows of another. We are first introduced to the character of Judith, who has brutally had her heart broken. She leaves a drunken, desperate message on her ex’s answer machine dropping a bombshell that leads to his new girlfriend paying an unexpected visit to her flat. Their exchange is fascinating, showing the complexity of human relationships; the women want to hate each other but cannot find the strength to do so. They find common ground and, in one touching moment, we see Ros washing dye from Judith’s hair.
“Two women, one stolen life, and one life built in the shadows of another”
Both actors have a strong presence on stage. Bethany Muir particularly shines as Judith, embodying the full effects of a breakup, anger, sadness and vulnerability through her physicality whilst also showing that there is much humour to be found in such challenging times. It was refreshing to watch a story about two women, both involved with the same man, which avoided generic cliches. They were both having to deal with the fall out from Judith’s break up. The ‘other woman’ is given a much fuller story in this show, not simply labelled ‘breaker of girl code’ but a more vulnerable overthinking new partner with big shoes to fill, desperate to fulfil the role of ‘perfect girlfriend’ in the midst of a new relationship. Poppy Almond delivered a strong performance as Ros, with the ability to win the audience over with her complex and reflective nature avoiding any tendency for the character to become one dimensional and unrelatable.
Overall, the production was well delivered by director Sue Colgrave, but the show perhaps would have gained even more from points of stillness, rather than continual dialogue that often appeared rushed, not always allowing the audience to take in the two characters’ exchanges through moments of silence and reflection. Both actors worked well together and effectively portrayed a complex relationship of two women intrinsically linked by one man. I believe there was even more opportunity for their talent to surface and I do hope they have time to develop the piece further.
Henna Night was performed at The Cockpit Theatre on the 24th and 25th October.