Could a traumatic childhood event lead to an insular life of fantasy? That’s the question posed by the third play by Norfolk-born playwright Beatrice Armstrong.
Premiered at Norwich Playhouse by local theatre company fEast, Battery tells the tale of two sisters – played by Alice Brown and Tabitha Woodgett – who claim to be psychics but are, in fact, frauds who stage pretend visitations to con their clients.
The show is essentially a two-hander with the leads playing both the psychics and their willingly-deceived customers, with a smaller but pivotal role for Robin McLoughlin as Charlie, a seeming outsider to their world.
Brown and Woodgett are engaging and enthralling throughout this slightly difficult piece, physically and emotionally consumed through the 90 minute straight show. Ironically, the only time they slip is when try to sustain Norfolk accents, partly due to the dialogue being out of step with the characters.
McLoughlin is handed a less kaleidoscopic character but is all the better for it, turning in a sharp and focused performance.
Su Dean’s lighting design complements Mandy McKenna’s direction on a minimally dressed stage, with props flexibly used to deepen the storytelling.
Although much of the phrasing is neatly wrought – Armstrong has a particular talent for the visceral and violent – the plot stretches credulity too far and the two central characters lack a convincing pitch. Like at a faked seance, it needs an eager audience ready to swallow a little too much.