How to Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court
In How to Hold Your Breath, Zinnie Harris has woven fast-paced and witty dialogue that establishes relationships and characters quickly so that the torrential tale can unfold unrestricted. It’s a dark tale of obsession, love and a flawed society casting aside all morality as it implodes in upon itself.
The story begins with Dana and Jarron, blissfully awakening from a one-night stand that quickly turns when Jarron suggests, then demands, that he pay her for services rendered. He claims to be a demon, who will only accept sex under such circumstances. As the play unfolds we see that he is as marked by his desire (or even love) for her, as she is by the physical markings he has left on her chest after their passionate night.
This takes place in a Europe that’s suffering a quick economic decline, which eventually sees Dana and her pregnant sister Jasmine taking desperate measures to reach Alexandria. There a job interview awaits, and they might start a brighter future, as they gradually lose everything on their journey. Throughout, Dana is unwittingly guided at inopportune moments by the librarian she initially approaches to learn about demons. He acts as an errant escort, providing often unhelpful “how to” books for every fathomable situation.
Set on a dynamic stage that highlights the overarching hold of consumerism on society, with not only the furniture of the set moving, but also floors of the stage itself. Giant billboards reveal increasingly eroded images as they roll up to reveal the next, indicating a speedy deterioration of the economy and of the moral fibres that bind civilization together.
Maxine Peake holds the stage throughout the two-hour run time, embodying a woman franticly trying to maintain her sanity against a world falling apart. She portrays Dana as confident and bold, able to approach men and embrace her sexuality, successful in her career and a rock for her sister. Yet she slowly descends into a demented woman obsessed with the sinister Jarron, played by Michael Schaeffer. He is erratic and malicious enough to convince that he may very well be a demon, bemused by his infatuation with this woman who rejects his commodification of sex in place of a possibility for something deeper – even love.
How to Hold your Breath is on at Royal Court Theatre until 21st March 2015, for further information or to book visit here.