Helium at The Space
James Turner’s Helium is emotionally urgent and leaves the audience continually guessing with its enigmatic premise.
The play begins with comic anecdotes by young married artist Chloe (Elspeth Goodman) as she consistently tries to lighten the mood with quick quips and sarcastic comments while working in a party shop with her friend Ben (Steven Nguyen). They have a close relationship, though both struggle with their mental health, which Helium explores well. The mysterious character of Judith (Sara Dee) pops in and out to buy the gas, while the viewer attempts to decipher its relevance.
The stage is constructed with cardboard objects lined in black, creating a simple but effective setting. As the play progresses, clever use of everyday props by Phyllys Egharevba and direction by Izzy Carney further enhance the action and seamlessly link the two stories inextricably.
Kate (Mollie McManus) and David (Thomas Sparrow) are Turner’s second troubled duo. She grieves for her past and is in the process of overcoming a personal tragedy, while he is insensitive and burns with jealousy. At turns becoming violent, David is a brutish bully – Sparrow is perfect for the role with his towering stature – who would much rather blame others than take any responsibility.
The stories come together gradually and never venture into melodrama. Judith’s role as Death adds a dark element and recalls the series Black Mirror: in one scene Kate reads a text on her phone and the screen light is focused on Ben – it’s ingenious staging, with an effect similar to seeing a message bubble open in a series or film. Judith does not perceive anything wrong with ending a life prematurely; she helped her husband pass when he was suffering from cancer.
Turner’s play is incredibly human at its core, the cast’s strong performance brilliantly complementing his writing. With the realistic telling of these stories, which are based on a true account, the result makes for a powerful piece of drama that resonates on multiple levels.
Helium is live at The Space from 6th July until 10th July 2021 and available to stream until 23rd July 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.