It’s hard to believe that a few years ago Lizzie Nunnery was doing monkey impressions in the Rodewald Suite, warming up for a Swedish singer. Well, after a fashion – we still love her Monkey Song. But, these days, the Maghull Renaissance woman is more accustomed to garnering glowing reviews in the Guardian for her harrowing tales of humanity under the hammer: her first theatre piece, Intemperence, got the five star treatment.
Her latest, in the re-opened Playhouse Studio, The Swallowing Dark, receiving just one star short of the full house from a Guardian reviewer convinced that ‘Nunnery has larger plays bubbling up inside her’. We agree.
A terse, tense tale, The Swallowing Dark offers a lens on the life of Canaan, a Zimbabwean who’s fled to Liverpool and whose asylum status is under review – threatening to tear apart the life he’s mapped out for himself and his nine year old son.
Paul Robinson’s restless and pyrotechnical direction, simmering with rage, confusion and humanity is – at times – painful to endure. And performances are bold, poetic and bubbling with indigation at a system that seems Kafka-esque in its devotion to faceless form-filling over empathy and emotion.
Not that The Swallowing Dark is an easy diatribe against ‘the Daily Fucking Mail’: within her cauldron-like setting, Nunnery attempts to unravel the complexities of this hottest of political potatoes: where every inbound asylum seeker, every desperate and displaced case number is a soul with a past as checkered, complex and contradictory as our own.
Nunnery was inspired by the stories of Zimbabweans who she met through the charity Refugee Action – and it’s this that gives her psychological exploration the depth, and honesty, that the subject matter deserves, but rarely receives.
The Swallowing Dark is just starting a month long run in London – and, we fully expect, Lizzie Nunnery’s star is set to shine ever brighter in the coming year. Congratulations all round.
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