Mia McCullough’s Squirrel Plays, Infestation and Compensation, performed consecutively for the first time during the Wandsworth Fringe Festival, are an exercise in intimacy and style, while also producing a strong commentary for the female role in theatre and in the world.
On production value, this was a delight to watch. There was no individual protagonist / antagonist, instead a behaviourist approach was taken to make the conversation the central character. I rooted for no individual, rather the story they were projecting towards each other; this theme being developed further, as characters featuring in scenes without lines were, instead, stage furniture to be interacted with.
The actors were components to a story, the dialogue was snappy. Words and sentences alluded to the individual’s characteristics, yet always held back, maintaining audience’s intrigue with each piece of the puzzle. We went into the theatre space blind, not knowing the play would be a crossover of two chapters of the same story. However, the transition between Infestation and Compensation was seamless, a satisfying, dramatic turn in the events unfolding , a simple issue turned bureaucratic nightmare.
“But what about our agenda?” a titular role screams in the second half of the performance. Good question: if a piece of work’s intent is to send a message to all, it needs to be capable of conveying to those more naive, not just those who already share the same agenda. The post-show talk threw light on this, but the intent could’ve been conveyed more effectively.
The story of Infestation is about uninvited squirrels making it into the household of a newlywed couple who seek to get rid of the creatures, while questioning their approach from an ethical standpoint – an excellent homage to the struggles of couples coping with social / governmental pressures towards reproductive choice.
Compensation is when a committee is formed to regulate how all characters cope with the “squirrel infestation” in the neighbourhood as a collective – again, excellent metaphor. The introduction of racial issues was abrupt, though, via the infestation of black squirrels. With a third part of this story pending we assume this message will be refined further. We await this with interest and curiosity.