Psychodrama review – Hitchcock thriller prompts tale of acting and abuse

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

There is a theme emerging on this year’s fringe about male power and its abuses. You see it in Svengali, the tale of a controlling tennis coach, and in Guide to Surviving Masculinist Territory, which is exactly that. It is also central to this one-woman show about the professional indignities of the acting industry.

Psychodrama takes as its starting point Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and is a reflection, without ever stating as much, on that director’s complex relationship with the women he put on screen. So often, they are both star and victim, framed in the limelight but denied their agency.

In Matt Wilkinson’s play, Emily Bruni plays a mid-career actor who believes she has landed the part of Marion Crane in a stage adaptation of the movie by Peter Coevorden, a famous Dutch auteur. It feels like we’re drifting into #MeToo territory but, drawing on anecdotes from an actors’ WhatsApp group, the play takes a broader swipe at a profession too tolerant of artistic and economic exploitation.

Bruni, poised and centred on a spotlit chair, is a gifted storyteller, easing us into the tale with its backdrop of humiliating auditions and cliched bit parts in a world where youth and beauty always trump talent. Although her day job in a designer boutique is undemanding, it is a good deal more emotionally secure than her work as an actor, not least in the company of the messianic Coevorden who controls the people around him with a callous disregard for anyone but himself.

If it finishes abruptly, leaving us uncertain about the resolution of the unfolding murder mystery, Wilkinson’s production dramatises the industry’s cruel status games with a vivid intensity.

• At Traverse, Edinburgh, until 28 August.

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