Bonnie

By Luke Dodge

You walk into the theater, twinkling music giving the room an immediate tension. A girl sits reading on a small bed, surrounding by stuffed animals. A child-sized table and chairs near a window looking out to a starry night complete the set of a child’s bedroom. As the play seamlessly transitions into the beginning scene I had the feeling I was looking into somewhere I did not belong.

After witnessing her parents burn to death in a fiery car accident, Blair (Olyvia Anothayanontha) has regressed from a woman in her 20’s into a childlike state. Olyvia flips back and forth between child and adult with an uncanny ease, selling the premise from the start.

Blair’s jobless older sister Emma (Alice Pollack) is thrust into a reluctant mother figure with responsibilities she never wanted. Her character is constantly struggling to maintain a sense of balance for Blair and Alice shows us the myriad of emotions just beneath the surface which threaten to boil over.

Going-nowhere ex-boyfriend James (Jerry Manan) has missed the funeral and desperately wants to patch up his relationship with Blair. Jerry embraces his role, turning an unlikable character into a real person we can sympathise with, but still feel good about disliking.

Only Blair can see her imaginary friend Bonnie (Jamie Turner) who has come to assist in her time of need. Introduced as a disembodied pair of glowing red eyes and accompanied by a theme song of violin and wooden train whistle, Jamie’s physicality and character work is fantastic and steals the show.

The relationship between Blair and Bonnie is exactly how I would imagine an imaginary friendship to be, but when the lights go out Bonnie is truly ominous, like a dangerous animal barely tamed. Emma blames James for the accident which claimed her parents, resulting in explosive scenes between them as they fight for control over access to Blair. Kudos go to the tech crew who put on some of the best lighting work I’ve seen.

Six years in the making, first-time playwright Wil Weiss confidently brings a modern day horror to the stage. Through lighting, costume, and superb physical acting a genuinely dark creature is brought to life in a unique manner, teasing of something lurking on the fringes of our world. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to convince the hairs on the back of my neck to lay down.

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