“I want to let you speak to me”
The fourth play in the Sky Arts Playhouse: Live season, previewing at the Riverside Studios before live transmission on Sky Arts 2 is Crocodile, a new play by Frank McGuinness starring Sinéad Cusack and Pippa Bennett-Warner. A girl has been arrested for committing an unspeakable crime but is refusing to speak. When she gets a visit from a woman who has had legal training in London, the story of what has happened is slowly teased out but in doing so, the woman reveals more about her own motives than she is comfortable with.
Cusack gives a predictably strong performance as Woman, the would-be defence lawyer working in Africa, overly keen to help piece together the mysteries of what has happened whilst trying to conceal the issues in her own life. Bennett-Warner, recently so very good in Ruined, gives another excellent turn here as Girl, holding tightly onto her secret and struggling to be able to articulate the true scope of what has happened to her. She has a graceful stage presence, able to use silence as well as words to convey her depth of emotion and she was extremely good when the balance of power shifted between the two women, really coming into her own and forcing Cusack’s Woman onto the back foot.
There’s a different set up to the previous two shows I’ve seen in this run (I missed Hens due to a wedding): the cage-like box has been replaced by a large stone tray representing a holding cell, with a smattering of furniture. It’s a spare setting which suits the play, though the haze-filled room combined with the considerable heat proved to be a little too soporific. The use of percussion throughout by Corinna Silvester was a choice that didn’t really work for me, I felt it intruded rather than enhanced proceedings and was a real distraction especially at times of great revelation.
Altogether, this was probably my least favourite of this season so far. It was very well acted but just didn’t engage me as completely as the others: this may have been as much to do with the heat as anything, yet there was something missing here for me. Crocodile will be broadcast on Sky Arts 2 at 9pm on Wednesday 30th June should you wish to catch it yourselves.
Running time: 45 minutes
Programme cost: free
Booking until 27th June