Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Bell Jar rings true still in harrowing show

CELEBRATING the 50th anniversary of the publication of Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, opening night saw a partisan crowd revel in some professional-level performances and Plath's timeless prose.

The acting was exceptional in this amateur production by Green Room, particularly Louise Parker, who mesmerisingly inhabited Esther Greenwood's pallid skin.

The role of the central character -- an aspirant writer who spirals into depression -- is a challenge for anyone, but Parker pulled it off, delivering her many lines flawlessly in an equally flawless Dixie accent.

Any time Esther's verbal barbs verged on the exhausting, support from Mary Lindsay, Conor Maguire, Mary-Frances Loughran or Aaron Hickland offered some respite.

Plath's dark wit remains capable of extracting a laugh from an audience, even as the play entered ever more disturbing territory.

The most arresting moments remain in the treatment of mental illness, suicide and sexual assault.

After The Bell Jar doesn't flinch from slashed wrists or electric shocks, or indeed the attempted rape of Esther by Maguire's Marco.

These harrowing scenes made for uncomfortable viewing, but writer James Johnson and director Patsy Hughes balanced the tone.

Not an easy watch, but After The Bell Jar should engage hardened fans of Plath and newcomers alike.

FOUR STARS

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