The Reviews Hub / Thomas Eccleshare

It’s been a while since Shakespeare asked us to ponder “what’s in a name?” but these and other questions take new shape in Heather. In it, a children’s author experiences overnight success, while harbouring an entirely other story as a secret. And like a children’s book, Thomas Eccleshare’s script is accessible, but begins to prize open the proverbial can of worms when it comes to morals and the big questions.

Heather‘s tripartite structure helps us consider the way we tell stories, from epistolary forms to full blown role play. But also the way in which we tell ourselves stories, creating alternative narratives, perhaps to save face. It follows what happens when the story becomes bigger than the storyteller, when a product of one’s imagination takes on a life of its own.

Charlotte Melia and Ashley Gerlach (as the eponymous Heather and her publisher Harry) show an extraordinary ability to manipulate their characters from one moment to the next, as the line blurs between reality and fiction, and public and private selves. And in a piece about the  power of stories, director Valentina Ceschi is never afraid to make use of silence, to bold, brilliant effect.

Visually, the last act is a great one to end on. Fantastical, heightened, and child-like, full of dynamic staging and evocative sound effects.

However, being slightly parodical in style, and less probing than the previous acts, it has the potential to undermine the groundwork laid up until this point. Similarly, there is a concern that audiences are laughing much longer than playwright or director intended.

Heather feels like the start of something; while the bulk of the iceberg is hidden away behind clipped dialogue, humour and escapist worlds, it definitely has the potential to sink its teeth.