Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Emotions run high at Highbury

Death and the Maiden

Highbury Theatre Centre

Sutton Coldfield


HIGHBURY Players raise the bar yet again with a searing and passionate performance of Death and the Maiden. This highly charged and emotionally gripping play by Ariel Dorfman centres on Paulina Salas, a former political prisoner who in her past has been sadistically tortured by a fascist regime. 

Scarred by her past and now living in isolation with her lawyer husband Gerardo, a chance encounter brings her face to face with her possible oppressor,  Dr Miranda, whom she believes has been her violent and abusive captor. For revenge she takes him captive in order to punish him and extract a full confession. 

Gerardo is unsure of her accusations and the three people each argue their respective claims, doubts and accusations in a way that even at the end of the play the truth is unclear.

To deal with a subject as controversial as this requires the players to commit fully and in a powerful display of some great acting, they did just that.

The least intense of the roles, that of Dr Miranda fell to Kerry Frater. Held captive, tied to a chair and in silence for a good proportion of the play Mr Frater finally got his chance to explode with a plea of innocence when facing his penultimate end.

Next in the intensity stakes was Robert Hicks playing the husband Gerardo. Hicks was coolly convincing as the doubting lawyer trapped between his duty and professional training and the potential disgust at the possible criminal act that Miranda may have committed against his wife in her former years. The sway of emotions from scheming lawyer to outraged husband was captured beautifully.

Finally Susie May Lynch must have been exhausted after the work she has done in rehearsals and on the night in bringing the intense character of Paulina Salas to life. Lynch positively exploded with rage and manic repression and that was a joy to watch whilst her every vein seemed to stand out so committed was her belief in the part.

The best interchanges were between her and her husband, played out in the audience space, and the only downside of that was for the first four rows half of the action took place behind them so they missed a lot of Lynch’s excellent performance. Death and the Maiden is a very adult experience. It contains some very graphic language and offensive and disturbing descriptions, but it is a compelling story.

A special mention must also be given to the technical team who through some clever lighting and sound work created a flowing atmosphere and slowly evolving mood throughout the play. However one or two of the costume changes seemed to take an age to bring about but fortunately the players regained the momentum once the play resumed.

This is a play that could be directed in several different ways but Nigel Higgs, take has brought about a powerful and thought provoking piece that once again defies the word `amateur’. To 24-05-14.

Jeff Grant


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