Tensions Are High In Abyss At The Arcola

By Savannah Whaley Last edited 86 months ago
Tensions Are High In Abyss At The Arcola ★★★☆☆ 3
Photo by Richard Davenport, of cast members Nicola Kavanagh and Iain Bachelor.

Londonist Rating:


Maria Milislavjevic’s award-winning play Abyss is a compelling tale of loss, fear and conflicted loyalties, though at times leaves its audience a little too in the dark.

A young woman, Karla, disappears one evening and the unwillingness of the police to look for her leads three of her close friends to take matters into their own hands. The three-strong cast move fluidly between character roles following a script that is fast-paced and at times beautifully lyrical. Personal truths are exposed as the search continues, and a surreal how-to guide for catching and skinning a rabbit weaves in and out of plot events and a wider context of conflict in Eastern Europe, giving the production a sinister edge.

Nicola Kavanagh, Jennifer English and Iain Bachelor perform persuasively, tackling the difficult task of having to move rapidly between characters and moods, managing to keep tension high though sacrificing the believability of some of the gentler moments in the process. Their physicality is wonderful; all three move fluidly around the stage with Bachelor’s heavy footfalls beating an ominous drumming rhythm that measures out the passing time of their search.

The staging of the show is a triumph; the simple set is used dynamically and the backdrop of lights, designed by Ziggy Jacobs, crowns the show visually and gives many of the scenes an even greater depth and atmosphere.

Abyss is an absorbing production and certainly one to keep you thinking and questioning events once it ends. There is an obscurity to the plot, however, that is initially intriguing, but becomes frustrating. The political and historical backdrop is never made explicit enough to grab onto, too much is hinted at but left unexplained. The action, however, plunges you into a tense world of love and loss in a production that is powerful, and at moments is truly astounding.

By Savannah Whaley

Abyss continues at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 until 25 April. Tickets £17/£14, and £14/£12 for the matinées on 4 and 11 April. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 09 October 2015