The Actors of Dotted Line Theatre are waiting amongst their doll’s house-esque set as we, literally, pull up a pew in this church-like venue. The lit up windows of the miniature white houses against the dark stage, together with the stillness of the four cast members, appropriately prepare us for ‘a tale of fear’. They set a slow and dreamy pace to the text, which, combined with summer attire and some playful lighting effects, help to establish that they are in the weighty heat of the deep South, America.

The company are very good at demonstrating their locations throughout the play. Whether it be by using several small torches in the dark representing fireflies around a ravine, brushing an arm past a stage light to create the effect of a ceiling fan in a shop, or simply using a torch to represent the rising moon, we are always put clearly in the picture. There are some truly clever silhouetted images created on the model houses by intricate puppetry, which can be fascinating to watch, although sometimes a bit distracting when being set up.

There is much credit due to designers (Tom Crame and Rachel Warr), lighting support (Dan Saggars) and sound (Ben Oliver), who with straightforward ideas create almost tangible locations in a relatively sparse set. The acting company help the design come to life on stage calmly and effectively. After a while however, the lethargic tempo the actors have inaugurated becomes tiresome. It is clear that they are in the ‘deep south’ and that they are oppressed by the heat, but the pace needs to change in order for there to be variation and contrast to this production. There is a mixture of narration and dialogue in the play but even the narration is torpid.

The acting varies among the cast from relatively naturalistic to slightly more over the top performances, and it seems there could have been more guidance on assimilating the acting styles, or at least segregating the narration style to the characters’ styles.

Although the performance styles could do with more government, Katie Pattinson as Lavinia does have a suitably calm yet sensual and excited energy about her. We sense her need for her monotonous life to be interrupted, and that she is seeking a nightmarish thrill.

There is some tension created towards the end of the piece when Lavinia describes her journey home alone through the dark, unpopulated paths and over the ravine. This passage is relatable, acted with clear and  focused thoughts, and accompanied with very minimal torch light on Pattinson’s face, we can finally begin to feel some anticipation and even fear in this potentially chilling script. Considering the whole play is just fifty minutes long however, this hold on the audience comes too late for us to come away feeling perturbed or provoked.

Dotted Line Theatre can be proud of their innovative approach to theatre and the entertaining visions they have created in this production. There are some captivating moments but the general direction and acting requires more diversity if they are to convey a more interesting and three-dimensional story.

The Lonely One, at Little Angel TheatreDavid Richards reviews The Lonely One at the Little Angel Theatre.3