Echoes is a new domestic horror written by Neil Smith and performed by Living Record. John is visiting Helene, a woman he abandoned nine years ago – and he wants to see his daughter, Julie, whom he has never met. What ensues is an emotionally draining performance that is haunting in its intensity.
John has been working in the garden while Helene remains in the house, easily reverting back to their previous domestic routines. The garden is neglected and the plants are dead – a fact Helene blames on John for having left. The conversation deteriorates quickly into an argument about the past and the problems they faced before their parting. Why did he leave? Why has he come back now?
It is clear from the beginning that everything is not quite right with Helene. Her first words to John are to ask him what his blood smells like. There is an obsession with guilt and sin that evidently stems from a fractious and abusive relationship with her mother. The arguments between the couple feel rehearsed, as though the issues are not new but simply intensified after a long absence – contributing to the ease with which they fall back into domestic stagnation.
The atmosphere of the play is brought to life by a very strong production. The noises of a storm raging outside, and the minimalist set – colourful leaves and a chair, plus a mysterious covered object – bring a level of intensity and a sense of isolation to the domestic drama unfolding within the house.
This minimalism is offset by very powerful performances from the cast. The acting is raw and physical, and utterly holds your attention, sucking you in to the world of the play. That world is not emotionally stable, and it is spiralling towards inevitable violence. This is performed with unflinching detail; you feel the physical pain being given and received.
The play deals with heavy themes of abandonment, abuse and madness. At times it can be almost overwhelming, but the cast are in total control and they keep it firmly in line. It can also be difficult understanding what is actually happening, is this real, a dream or a delusion? But not knowing ratchets up the tension, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Overall, this is a powerfully performed play that handles its themes well. It is extremely intense and very creepy, and I felt somewhat wrung out after it was all over. Echoes will definitely stay with you… but when you find yourself on your own on a dark night, you might wish that it didn’t.