Who is Kimberley, what does she need, and how will this end? Those are the questions that jump out from the start of the play, from the moment this wild, unpredictable character is introduced. They linger over the duration of the show, intensifying with every significant plot development, but by the end remain unresolved. The creators of this show have kept Kimberley a secret, and the other characters in the play didn’t really get her, or try to. Only Kimberley knows who she is, what she needs, and how this ends.
The Feather in the Web (written by Nick Coyle, directed by Declan Greene) is an entertaining production which falls short of making a lasting impact. It meanders in a few different directions over its two hour duration, opens up more than one Pandora’s box, frequently nudges the audience out of their comfort zone, but doesn’t quite tie it all together, and leaves many questions unanswered. Is this a show about perceptions of mental illness/personality disorders? Is it about love? Friendship? Queerness? Euthanasia? Finding meaning? It is all of these, and yet none of these.
The first half of the show paints Kimberley (played by Michelle Brasier) as mentally and emotionally atypical. She appears to have an appetite for drama, boundary issues, and often expresses herself with intense stares and forceful intonation. She’s good at upsetting people, and keeping the walls up around her. However, things begin to change when she falls in love (if to fall in love is to suddenly develop a determined attachment to a complete stranger for no reason), and she becomes more intentional in her interpersonal relationships. Her progress is as troubling as it is heartening. By the end of the play, all the characters have taken so many steps forwards and backwards, without a clear point having been made, that it almost doesn’t matter where they end up.
There were some fine acting performances in this show, especially Emily Milledge as Lily, the show’s most believable character. Patrick Durnan Silva seriously elevated the energy in the room with much needed comedic impact, especially early on in his role as an overly enthusiastic make up artist. The technical elements were impactful, steering the show away from realism, keeping the darker themes from getting too uncomfortable. The show did get several things right, but in the end it just wasn’t enough to make up for the overall lack of focus.