By Catherine Hart

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Cat House Films production The Visitor. Photo by Doug Brooks.

The Visitor is perhaps one of the more chilling performances I have seen for some time. Not because of any gore or serious drama, but because the content matter sits so close to home. I know I am not alone in this, and that is where the power of the production lies.

To start the show we watch our main performer, Kim Georgine, preparing for a date. This is a scene many of us can recognise with the self-pep talks and triple checks in the mirror. She is obviously nervous, late, and second-guessing her choices. The act of her getting ready in the mirror goes on for a bit longer than necessary, but it remains effective at introducing the neurosis that prevails throughout the rest of the show.

Just as she seems ready to leave for her date, she is joined by a male companion. At first I worry about the abusive way he speaks to her, but it doesn’t take long before I realise that this is not a separate character, but her own consciousness – her inner-voice. I hear the voice that echoes within my own head, spinning lies and manipulations. For me, a survivor of mental illness, it is powerful beyond measure.

A moment that is particularly moving and terrifying is during the physicalization of a panic attack. At this point I wonder if other audience members are having the same emotive reaction as I, as I feel my breath quicken as the breathlessness and panic take hold. A panic attack being shown as strangulation and being physically overpowered is unbelievably accurate, and I applaud the performers for being able to show such a vulnerable moment in a character’s story.

In general, some of the action of the show could do with a little tightening, as the gaps between thoughts can sometimes go on for longer than necessary. Having an outside director come in to take a look at both the script and the action could certainly benefit the production to make it flow in a slightly more cohesive manner.

The show ends rather abruptly, but with this content matter I’m not sure there are many other ways to finish such a performance. Post-show we have a brief Q&A. I congratulate the performers for making this space possible, because with a show that is so triggering it is important for audience members to have a time and place to debrief before re-entering our normal lives.

During the Q&A session the performers explain why they chose the ‘inner voice’ to be portrayed by a male actor, which is a relief. Georgine explains that the play is based on her own experiences, and her inner voice is male (partly due to living in a misogynistic society). It is great to hear the reasoning behind this, because it was certainly a question that came to mind during the show.

I realise that this is a condensed version of the play, and that the extended version includes references to abuse. To be honest, I am not sure if I could sit through the longer version of the show, considering the deep, dark nature of the piece. At half an hour I experienced all I could bear, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience who felt the drama so painfully relatable. 

The Visitor is a brave and confronting show. It deals with a difficult topic in a realistic way, without turning it into melodrama. It is a play that has a relevance in our society, and a definite room to grow within that.

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