‘An intense and thought-provoking piece of original theatre…

Elysium Theatre Company have brought an intense and thought-provoking piece of original theatre to the Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms at Durham.

Written by Steve Byron and directed by Jake Murray, “Reiver; Tales from the Border” is an ambitious creative project exploring the lives and experiences of individuals living in the terrorised areas surrounding the English and Scottish border. Byron’s play draws upon the horror, cruelty and individual acts of heroism that were so prevalent during this time to create a truly evocative and unique piece of drama. With a cast of only three actors, we are able to intimately discover the lives of The Blackmailed (Matthew Howdon), Ronald (Steven Stobbs) and The Widow (Elaine McNicol). Each gave a fantastic and emotive performance to introduce the audience to their three very distinct characters.

The set was appropriately bare; simply three chairs and a desk in front of a mapped backdrop, creating an ideal stage that had enough to enhance the performance without being too crowded. I did find the constant changing of the lighting colour in an attempt to match the actor’s mood and tone slightly obvious and a little forced. That said, the contemporary costumes were highly effective.

The tone was eerie from the very beginning, with each actor commanding an intense and still demeanour until it was their turn to relay their tale, providing powerful backdrops to each other’s storytelling. Each character allowed the audience to truly understand the emotional impact of the atrocities committed by the Reivers, delivering their tales with great honesty and providing an appropriate level of harshness.

Matthew Howdon conveyed great confusion and disbelief at the acts committed against his character. Meanwhile, Steven Stobbs gave a confident performance with an impressive array of well-executed accents. Stobbs’s role as an officer of the law provided a unique yet still victimised perspective on the work of the Reivers and he did a fantastic job at convincing the audience just how desperate, lonely, and isolated his character felt within this law-abiding role.

It is simply a shame that we did not hear from Elaine McNicol until the second act, where she developed from a state of passive aggressiveness to a position of utter power and domineering control over her victim in an act of revenge. I did find her dance section a bit disruptive to the flow of her storytelling and a slightly unnecessary addition. However, her overall performance was nothing short of a triumph.

Overall, Elysium Theatre company’s “Reiver; Tales from the Border” is a piece of theatre that isn’t to be missed! Make sure to catch it as it tours across the North East this October!

By Sydney Davies

Photo Credits: Elysium Theatre Company