The Wasp, Hampstead Theatre

The Wasp - Hampstead Downstairs

Chain-smoking Carla (MyAnna Buring) works at her local Morrisons and is pregnant with her fifth child. Heather is wealthy, left-leaning and Guardian-reading and has been trying for four years to have a baby. The two women were at school together, and, we learn, were best friends for a time, despite coming from ‘different worlds’, until Carla and her mates decided Heather was uncool and bullied her mercilessly, culminating in a shocking incident.

Heather has discovered Carla on Facebook, and they meet over a builder’s tea and a latte, ostensibly to discuss Heather’s failing marriage to Simon ‘an average, pathetic, pointless man’ and her fertility problems. Given that Carla can fall pregnant ‘just by having an argument’, when money is offered, it looks as though it will be for Carla to act as a surrogate. But it soon becomes clear that Heather has a much more sinister agenda.

It’s impossible to write about the plot of The Wasp without giving anything away, but it’s full of twists and turns; just when you think you know what’s going to happen and you have it all figured out, writer Morgan Lloyd Malcom swiftly changes direction. Perhaps inevitably, then, The Wasp is not without its implausibilities, but there is enough momentum to sustain the interest, the dialogue is swift and threaded throughout with a deliciously dark humour, and the changes in pace are enough to encourage you to keep watching.

The Wasp is an intriguing sort of thriller, and Morgan uses the lives of these two women, which diverged so dramatically, to raise some important questions about whether we can ever hope to forgive (and forget), and whether we can escape our past, and the life we were born into.

I saw the first preview, at which both actresses performed well, particularly MyAnna Buring as Carla, who is torn between her pride and a need to escape her dull, impoverished existence in which she is, in Heather’s words, ‘scrabbling in the dirt.’ Carla sees that Heather has the life she might have had, and Buring captures her struggle to reconcile herself to this fact. Sinead Matthews isn’t quite as good as the calculating and manipulative Heather. In her hands, Heather becomes abrasive and nervous, rather than someone whose formidable intelligence masks a twisted worldview.

The final, climactic scene is beautifully judged, however: as the two actresses circle each other, the tension builds, and Morgan manages to draw everything together in a way that manages to dispel many of the doubts that still linger. It’s another twist, but this time, it’s judged just right.

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Categories: Theatre

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