Raw, Powerful, and Disturbing: PAPER DOLL

4 stars

Written in response to Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, PAPER DOLL is a play that explores the insidious and destructive impact of sexual abuse through its confrontation with the horrific consequences and ultimately lifelong tether between paedophile and victim.

The devastation of sexual abuse is conveyed to the audience through the outstanding and disturbing performances of Martin Ashley Jones and Hayley Pearl, who walk the tightrope of the abuser/victim dyad expertly. The two actors inhabit an empty stage, giving neither their characters nor the audience a place to hide from performances that are no less powerful and complex than they are disturbing.

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

The play opens with the seemingly broken “Him”—manifested skin-crawlingly well by Jones—arriving, wet and unsettled, at “Her” door.

Jones and Pearl skirt around each other in the opening third of the play. Their interactions are stilted and awkward, and hint at a past that can’t be openly acknowledged. As the play develops, Jones’ attempts to repent are rapidly undermined by his obvious ongoing infatuation with Pearl.

Where Jones’ character seeks affirmation of his desires and a return to their past power structure, Pearl’s seeks to assert her autonomy over mind, body, and self. She falters in her resolve to maintain an adult and controlled position in the relationship, vacillating between her present understanding of Jones’ predatory behaviour and the vulnerable child scarred by trauma and fear.

Both Jones and Pearl give the audience performances that elicit feelings of distress, empathy and pain as they watch the truth of the relationship unfold.

The stark set reflects the exposure of the subject matter as Pearl’s character is physically and emotionally stripped, her trauma raw and tangible.

PAPER DOLL is not an easy play to watch, nor should it be. It is an important piece of work that gives voice to the ongoing distress and vulnerability of victims of sexual abuse.

Tickets available from the FRINGE WORLD website.