Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 21 November 2019

Review: i will still be whole (when you rip me in half)

12 - 23 November

‘a steady throb like the sound of your heart beat in the bath’: Lily Levinson writes on Ava Wong Davies’ lyrical exploration of a relationship between a daughter and her estranged mother.

Lily Levinson
i will still be whole (when you rip me in half). Photo: Fran Cattaneo.

i will still be whole (when you rip me in half). Photo: Fran Cattaneo.

there’s a young woman (Aoife Hinds) crouching at the back of the stage, in the middle of a residential street, opposite a fox with a KFC box in its mouth. at the back of her mind is a girl who looks nothing like her. the other girl has blue eyes and blonde hair and probably works in PR and is close to her family. the other girl’s family are probably a close family. they probably all wear christmas jumpers on christmas day.

the girl holding her hands out, palms upward, to a yellow-eyed fox in the middle of the road could have gone home with the blue-eyed blonde-haired girl. their tongues were in each other’s mouths less than an hour ago. sweating in the basement nightclub. but the girl now crouching in the street has a big day tomorrow. it’s nearly tomorrow.

Ben Kulvichit’s lighting suffuses the stage slowly with the bruised colours of dawn: orange, mauve, pale blue, a pink strip along the back wall like flushed skin.

in the middle of the stage, where the fox would be, there’s an another woman (Tuyen Do). she’s older. she’s kneeling down next to a small potted plant. she looks a bit like the girl crouching in the road. (around the eyes, maybe. or the nose.)

Helen Morley’s delicate direction creates a subtle mirror of the two women’s movements. (like shadows caught at the edge of each other’s vision.)

the two women haven’t met or spoken since the older one walked out of the younger one’s life, shortly after giving birth to her.

Grace Venning’s design is carefully sympathetic to the simplicity of the play’s concept. a scar of dark green ivy running up the grey wall, a stone block, a hidden table.

the young woman in the road is called EJ. there are a few key moments in the play where she’s low to the ground like this, tucked into herself. like a seed or a bulb or a foetus or someone trying to stop the stuff inside them leaking out.

Ava Wong Davies has written a very good play I think (phew).

Aoife Hinds perfectly catches the difficult caustic humour in EJ’s character. sometimes it seems like EJ is harsher than she means to be. something in her wants to burn and sting and then she has to pretend she’s just being funny. sometimes she feels it slipping out of control, like a house fire.

her mother, the older woman, has learnt to domesticate this desire. her name is Joy. Tuyen Do plays her beautifully, with a choked, softened anger. she sprays and wipes the kitchen surfaces down twice. she thinks about descaling the kettle. the corrosive impulse she once shared with her daughter is displaced into bleach and disinfectant, into something quieter. she goes running. she imagines batting men out of her way with the back of her hand.

Jord Rice’s sound design reveals itself in unexpected moments. there are no flames at the house fire, no house music in the nightclub. instead, a steady throb emerges like the sound of your heartbeat in the bath.

i’m at a relaxed performance. the information slip says that the actors directly address the audience but there is no audience interaction. sometimes my attention slides away from the drifting lyricism of the intertwined monologues, but it’s ok. i’m scared of triteness but mostly it’s something tougher and more confident, a lower-case declaration, anchored by the performances.

when EJ and Joy finally meet, their conversation is piercingly moving and awful and funny and neither of them deserve the way it goes but the way it goes also feels inevitable. it’s a small, broken, whole thing.

i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) is on at the Bunker Theatre till 23rd November. More info here.


Lily Levinson

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Review: i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) Show Info

Produced by Emily Davis

Directed by Helen Morley

Written by Ava Wong Davies

Cast includes Aoife Hinds, Tuyen Do



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