Review: Holes


What would you do if you were stranded on a desert island? It’s a standard dinner party conversation piece (maybe reserved for those people you don’t have much to say to) and the subject of Desert Island Discs, but beyond the immediate moment, it’s usually met with light humour and a swift transition into other conversation topics, without much consideration of the actual reality. Enter Fourth Wall Theatre’s production of Tom Basden’s Holes, where the characters have to make exactly those decisions. Away from the security of home, the relationships between them unravel as, following a plane crash, they are the only four left alive. 

The pace is fast and the delivery entirely convincing

The play opens firmly rooted in acerbic comedy. The pace is fast and the delivery entirely convincing. The characterisation is wonderful; against a script that thrives on one liners, the thought and development from director Cait Mahoney is outstanding and sensitive. Everything has been considered, and much of the biting humour comes from the portrayal of highly multifaceted characters from the cast. Mungo Russell’s Ian is an excellent blend of entitlement, buffoonery and empathy and handled lightly enough to resist the temptation for caricature. It is balanced perfectly by Romilly Carboni’s Gus, who offers a blunt tartness to the frothier humour provided by Henrie Allen as Marie. Antonia Hogan’s performance as Erin, a sixteen-year-old who has lost both her parents, is sobering; she is the restraint through which the play maintains its realism, and her progression is incredibly well managed.

This play is not just the light comedy that first appears

The first half largely seeks to establish this range of characters, and this is perhaps where the show is strongest; by the time you reach the interval, you are left assured that the play has one obvious conclusion. Not so. In a sharp twist, we are left breathless. As the play gains momentum, we see the groundwork of the first half come into play. From a creative perspective, it’s incredibly challenging – managing a shift of such seismic proportions and still retain the audience’s focus could be considered nigh-on impossible by the weaker stomached. Fortunately, Mahoney’s directorial vision is strong enough to stand up to the challenge. The use of the mounting detritus of the survivor’s provisions as the final, ring fencing ‘hole’, is a biting symbolic reminder of the play’s tensions. The use of tech supports this; from the opening, the use of more cheerful beachside tunes against the tear-stained, shell-shocked faces of the cast suggests that this play is not just the light comedy that first appears. 

It isn’t afraid to be disgusting, either. There are points where Russell’s portrayal of Ian is downright scary, and as the play’s tension escalates, we don’t lose the sense that it is desperation that leads him to the final few decisions. It is excellently navigated, and the chemistry between Russell and Carboni at the close is heart-rendering. The only criticism is that the team would be served by a better script. The cast’s performances are incredibly strong, the direction ice-clear and the overall production wonderful – I just wish the play itself had been able to support them a little more at the climactic crux of the play. In the end, Fourth Wall Theatre’s production of Basden’s Holes is everything that comedy ought to be. It is biting, it is satirical and it is funny. It offers an unsettling, humanised portrayal of chaos, and is brilliantly compelling. 

Image: Fourth Wall Theatre

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.