Fabric is not for the fainthearted. While Nancy Sullivan’s performance of being brutally sexually assaulted is believable and affecting, it’s perhaps not what everyone will expect from the show’s blurb, and makes for heavy-duty watching at the stone cold sober hour of noon. These scenes are the most memorable, for me eclipsing the rest of the story told.
The script, sympathetically written by Abi Zakarian, unravels the story of Leah – a youngish woman hoping to make sense of her life in the context of others’ expectations of her, and encounters that contradict the romantic dream she’s been led to expect. Some troubling events are so impactful that they are summed up by her oft-visited analogy of a stain on silk, or the loose thread she pulled on her childhood pinafore which unravelled the material’s pattern. Of course, such a stain can never be washed out, and there is no recovering the pinafore. Likewise, traumatic experiences can never be undone; contemplating this brutal fact of life made for a depressing hour.
Sullivan’s performance is energetic and she engages the audience with her telling. The stage is set with an evocative double bed, swathed in the white silk of her wedding gown. However, a couple of white cubes, which are moved around the stage to serve as seats, tables and so on, seemed rather cumbersome and more trouble than they were useful. It may be that Sullivan will become more natural with moving them and using them to dramatic effect, but on the day I attended, quite early on in the run, they were distracting.
Still, for all the discomfort I experienced, I can only applaud Nancy Sullivan – she captures perfectly the nuances of the character she plays, a young woman looking for some way through the confusion around her. For a solo show, her performance serves as a stunning reference point.