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Review: The Wasp is a taut and darkly comic tragedy

The Wasp is a play by Morgan Lloyd Malcom currently on stage at Auckland’s Q Theatre. 

As the story begins, darkly ominous music surrounds us. A woman, Carla (Miriama McDowell), sits on a bench outside a cafe. She responds silently to text messages. She is vaping and she is heavily pregnant. This one moment signals that this is going to be a grim tale.

Another woman, Heather (Bree Peters), emerges with a couple of takeaway coffee cups. She apologises for not realising Carla had been sitting outside for some time. The conversation that follows is awkward, stilted. Heather clearly organised this meeting, but Carla seems suspicious, blunt, and moody. 

These two characters have an unpleasant past. They were at school together, and while initially friends, something changed between them. That ‘change,’ while alluded to over the course the first part of the play hangs menacingly between them, heavy, unresolved. It is some time before the audience finds out exactly what it was that drove them apart. 

At the cafe, Heather finally tells Carla that she has a proposition for her, and offers a large amount of money to complete the task. For a woman who is poor, and overwhelmed by life and a large family, that offer is tempting. 

What then unfolds over two acts is a remarkably taut drama that, while filled with ghoulish humour, becomes more and more sinister as time progresses.

There are untold twists and turns in this story, and some outright shocking moments. Trying to guess what is coming next proves to be fruitless, as these two women try to out manoeuvre one another, while also struggling with recriminations and the savage rekindling of past emotions and memories.  

Peters and McDowell are the perfect match on stage and deliver performances that are riveting. Watching them dance around each other, argue, and manipulate, feels as though they really were at school together as children and still carry the scars that experience inflicted upon them.  

The Wasp is a cleverly woven tale, beautifully staged and performed that shows the danger of leaving past grief unresolved. As it reaches its ultimate climax, the title of the play will make perfect sense.

Go see it! 

Photo credit – Andi Crown.

THE WASP 

14-24 September 2022

Q Theatre Loft

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