Let Me Be

Fregoli Theatre Company presents 'Let Me Be' by Maria Tivnan.

Fregoli Theatre Company presents 'Let Me Be' by Maria Tivnan.

Fregoli Theatre Company presents 'Let Me Be' by Maria Tivnan.

Fregoli Theatre Company presents 'Let Me Be' by Maria Tivnan.

A one-act play exploring the deprivations of an unhappy childhood might well be spartan. On a bare Town Hall Studio floor, Fregoli’s latest offering and writer Maria Tivnan’s second play Let Me Be, is a 45-minute journey through the minds of two damaged children. Almost a form of psychodrama, it teases out a few truisms from its protagonists concerning the effects of child neglect: children are vulnerable, have differing ways of dealing with problems, retire into imaginary worlds and may not wholly trust adults. Such unsurprising maxims form rather shaky foundations for the work.

Two sisters attempt to cope with the slings and arrows of a dysfunctional family. Laura (Maria Tivnan) is the one who tends to suffer her abuses by coating herself with a protective sheen of bolshie bravado: she mitches school, consorts with equally naughty boys and seems to give as good as she gets. Underneath, of course, she hurts. Her younger sister Molly (Kate Murray), however, is the clever, imaginative one and has found other, more effective ways of sugaring her bitter life. Tough Laura defends intellectual Molly physically and in return Molly arms her sister with pacifying stories and bons mots. Through their symbiotic relationship they fashion a means of survival.

Partly choreographed, partly sung, sometimes declaimed, sometimes explored through dialogue, Let Me Be consists of short vignettes of the girls’ lives together. Household chores, school, mass, homework, a significant visit to the beach and the general demands of cohabiting with unseen but oppressive parental forces are played out.

Unfortunately, grown-ups acting as children rarely seems entirely credible, the suspension of disbelief is strained and the performances can seem uncomfortably arch. In this case, perhaps if the vignettes were more clearly defined as a series of memories and flashbacks or indeed re-enactments of some form of psychological therapy, then the physicality, verbal constructs and vocal inflection of two adults pretending to be children might be better explained. The decision makes the play feel introspective and just a tiny bit twee. This is despite director Tracy Bruen drawing precise and neatly choreographed performances from Tivnan and Murray and the fact that Tivnan’s script rightly and sensitively focuses on the girls’ relationship rather than dwelling on more explicit description of the nature of the familial abuse.

As in their other productions (such as The Secret Life of Me), Fregoli’s practice of using movement and song to emphasise and link narrative has become their trademark dramaturgy and this device is mostly effective and intriguing here. However, with sparse humour, tons of sentiment and very little conflict, Let Me Be lacks subtle bite or narrative drive: it’s a sympathetic uncovering of the secret life of these children that reveals a lot of playacting but little body.

Matthew Harrison

  • Review
  • Theatre

Let Me Be by Maria Tivnan

4th Feb - 1st March, 2013 (on tour)

Produced by Fregoli Theatre Company
In Town Hall Theatre Studio

Directed by Tracy Bruen

With: Maria Tivnan and Kate Murray