Avalanche: A Love Story @ The Barbican Centre (Fertility Festival 2019) Review

Avalanche: A Love Story is a truly heartbreaking adaptation of Julia Leigh’s memoir. Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks, the one-woman play starring Maxine Peake details the emotionally charged journey of Julia battling all odds in an attempt to become pregnant. The single act play whips through its 90 minute run time with an engrossing narration of events that delves into, love, loss and an eye-opening commentary on IVF and its financial underbelly.

Courtesy of The Other Richard. ©The Other Richard

Courtesy of The Other Richard.
©The Other Richard

The play opens with a sparse open space, white walls and a single desk. Deep, empty and cold, Marg Horwell’s set evokes and foreshadows the desolation that is to come. As the play progresses walls move and props collapse. This deconstruction is not over-used as a gimmick, but instead strikes rarely, emphasising the most impactful or sincere moments.

Peter Rice’s sound matches the set, used sparingly but productively, deep rumbles slowly swell breaking the cutting silence. To complete the trio, Lizzie Powell’s lighting is equally soft, only changing from a clinical wash to a watery blue at very particular moments.

Peake is incredibly compelling in the role. Holding the audience’s attention alone, she does not scream, shout or wail in despair as Julia’s single goal of pregnancy seems to slip further and further into obscurity. She exudes stoicism and strength, holding it together for as long as she can, but emotions do inevitably reveal themselves and when they do it is all the more stirring. Amongst the weighty themes, Peake drops witty quips that hit the mark with the audience, preventing the play from being one-tone and allowing for breathing room and reflection.

Technically, the play does not only star Peake. The sporadic appearances of two children that float about the stage, offer a compelling dynamic. Ghostly manifestations of this woman’s desires and yearnings. Physical reminders of both her hope and her loss.

Avalanche: A Love Story is executed in a simple yet effective manner. Peake is brilliant and it provokes thought not just on the rawness of IVF, but are patients given a truthful diagnosis, or is false hope allocated to finance a very profitable business? 4/5

Review written by Daniel Elliman.

Avalanche: A Love Story is currently showing until Sunday 12th May 2019 at the Barbican Centre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop