A promising concept supported by solid performances and betrayed by a disappointing conclusion.
The first moments of Bea in the Basement are a succinct introduction to the concept. No time is wasted, as the audience is greeted with an unconscious character lying on the concrete floor, kidnapped and locked away. Writer and director Victoria Posner has presented a very confronting premise. Tackling this kind of heavy drama is commendable, as there is a certain nuance required to engage with the themes of abduction and powerlessness in a mature way. It is challenging to build the required tension, and it takes skilled performers to unlock those depths. It is understandable then that Bea in the Basement is a somewhat flawed realisation of its particularly lofty brief.
The choice of location was particularly inspired, and the smaller space closed the gap between the performers and the audience. Without complicated lighting states or extensive set building, the production is stark in its minimalism. Leaving the action entirely unobscured made for honest viewing, and it’s rare to see a production willing to cast aside that protection.
Georgie Cufone and Sabrina Williams star as the two main characters, and both succeed at selling the intimacy of the production. Being so close to the audience, the small subtleties in their performance come into play, and both are given room to experiment. Williams in particular has created some brilliant and subtle mannerisms for Bea, demonstrating a deep awareness of the character, and of the audience’s expectations. Cufone’s comparatively sardonic portrayal is a great foil, and she demonstrates a proficient command of the space and the energy between the pair. Both characters feel distinct, and play off each other well.
Indeed, the entire production is hinged on the interplay between these two main characters, and while both actresses do a commendable job, the script gets in the way of anything properly engaging. Much of the dialogue is inauthentic, and is littered with strained millennial-isms that play against any growing tension. What was initially presented as a thriller comes across more as a quirky and tonally inconsistent character study, with characters chewing on dry cereal from a box as they discuss being snatched off the street.
Much of the narrative is the pair expositing on their respective backstories, experiences, and lives outside the basement. While the sharing of stories makes for a cosy dynamic and there is a lot of interesting depth written into the characters, very little of the discussion affects the plot. Indeed, there is an absence of forward momentum. The sheer weight of their situation is barely acknowledged until the play’s final act and there is no sense of urgency, no palpable stakes. The ending is, in comparison, almost too ambitious. It presents an honestly baffling twist that isn’t set up or foreshadowed in any meaningful way, and blindsides the audience with an underdeveloped social commentary that feels like it belongs to a different production. The script’s unwillingness to engage with the issues it initially raises is unsatisfying, and the overall themes feel underdeveloped.
There is a very interesting premise at the core of Bea in the Basement, but it is not yet sure what it wants to be, or what it seeks to communicate. That said, the talent of the performers makes for an engaging experience, and it has made effective use of the chance to experiment with locale. Audiences should be excited to see how this show develops in the future.
The reviewer attended the 18th May 2pm performance of Bea in the Basement at SunCentral Basement, Maroochydore.
The show wraps up on Saturday 25th May, at Mt Ommaney Centre Car Park. Read more at https://anywhere.is/listings/basement-2/
Read more coverage and cast interviews at timothymcgowan.com