Valhalla at Theatre503
How far would one go to protect humanity? How much fear, pain and moral conflict would one endure if his partner was supposedly this saviour? These are, amongst others, some of the questions asked during Paul Murphy’s Valhalla, directed by the renowned Jo McInnes, which recently opened at Theatre503.
Using a versatile but claustrophobic set that has been well designed by Katie Lias and her team, Valhalla is a tense and introspective two-hander that opens in The City, where Man (Murphy) and Woman (Carolina Main) are struggling through a fraught relationship in the midst of a global epidemic that has seen rioting on the streets. Woman, a GP who works in The City, has been trying for a baby despite this unrest, whilst Man is a research scientist on the hunt for a cure. Throughout the opening act, the relationship between these two is explored, quickly uncovering the tension and cracks that have developed as both seek to aid humanity in their own way.
Following this brief spell of world building, the brunt of Murphy’s twisting exploration of the human psyche (and the lengths one will go to when the deepest morals are brought into question) takes place in an unspecified Nordic research facility. Having relocated here to further Man’s research and put Woman at ease after her experiences in The City, this isolated setting matches the dialogue between the two perfectly. It provides a stark and barren backdrop to the increasing desperation of the protagonists as they wrestle with questions of love, survival and predetermination.
Throughout this excellently written play that touches on the binary opposites of male and female, Main shines as the mercurial, intelligent and slightly manic Woman. Her interactions with Murphy are tense, frequently edging towards dangerous, and she has a brilliant capacity to drag the audience into Woman’s thoughts as the story progresses. Murphy, who has stepped in for actor Clint Dyer as Man for the duration of the run following a last-minute withdrawal, also delivers a commendable performance. He provides a weighty presence as the secretive and controlling Man, although his inexperience with the role does ultimately leave Main to carry the show (which she does with unfailing confidence).
In spite of some lingering ambiguity, which is only partly resolved following a climactic denouement, Paul Murphy’s Valhalla is a deftly written exploration of scientific ethics and personal responsibility that enthrals throughout its 80-minute runtime.
Valhalla is on at Theatre503 from 30th September to 24th October 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the promotional video for Valhalla here: