Dark and intense, Malcolm’s thrilling drama The Wasp is riveting from start to finish. The play follows two women from very different backgrounds, who meet again twenty years after they went to school together. What initially seems like abject curiosity on the part of Heather, the significantly better off of the two, is soon revealed to be something more complex: hints are dropped about ‘what happened at school’, ‘what you did’, and we realise that rather than idly taking an interest in her old school friend, or how the other half lives, Heather is seeking something more concrete and visceral.
Studio 2 is an intimate space, perfect for this kind of production: the audience is small and up close to the action; this works particularly well when things take a disturbing turn in the last half hour of the play, as the drama unfolds inches away from the front row. The acting is phenomenal, with both women handling comedy and emotional intensity with ease. The costume and set are simple but incredibly evocative of the characters’ backgrounds and environments, without relying too heavily on stereotypes. The strength of this production, which is realised in every aspect, lies in its profound exploration of character; both women are sympathetic and nuanced individuals, and we are asked to understand their actions without necessarily agreeing with them.
The plot is full of twists, but the actors’ skill avoids it reaching the level of melodrama; instead, the play is absolutely absorbing for ninety minutes. The absence of an interval is a gain rather than a loss, allowing the play to gain momentum and maintain its intensity. The Wasp is a play which challenges its audience’s ideas of morality, their prejudices, their understanding of human nature; it asks us to consider how much our childhood and adolescent experiences affect our adult selves, and how (or whether) our own trauma absolves us of our crimes