This is possibly one of the most depressing shows I have seen at the Fringe this year. Containing many episodes of emotional and physical abuse – including rape – Splitting tells the story of Layla, a woman who suffers psychological abuse at the hands of her narcissistic partner Steve (James Cameron). The show charts her mental breakdown as she battles against Steve and her inner demon Luciano.

An intense and evocative show containing lots of excellent acting.

Lauren Downie delivers an affecting and convincing performance as Layla. She throws herself wholeheartedly into her role, displaying the pain and abject hopelessness of a person with severe mental health issues. We watch with sympathy – but little surprise – as she sinks further into the depths of psychological torment. But while the play does a commendable job in representing the struggles of a person with borderline personality disorder, it does not always engage deeply with this issues, or strive towards any sort of conclusion.

Fluchar plays Luciano with panache, and is responsible for some of the most compelling scenes in the play. But there are moments – not least when he tosses a stack of playing cards into the air – when his stylised detachment draws too much attention to itself, running the risk of dominating rather than complementing the other elements in the play.

Once in a while, Layla speaks to her psychiatrist (Farah Ahmed) in rhyming couplets. While this taps into the tradition of the mad, singing heroine, it risks sounding pretentious and out of place in the play’s modern context. Also, Ahmed’s lines have the tendency to come across as overly expository when she gives the audience a crash course in narcissistic and bipolar personality disorders.

For all its shortcomings, Splitting remains an intense and evocative show containing lots of excellent acting. I look forward to seeing more work by these promising actors and writers in the years to come.

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The Blurb

Mixed race and nearing 30, Layla’s psychological abuse from her partner has left her struggling with identity confusion, suffering from post-traumatic stress and on the brink of a psychotic break down. Trapped with an abusive, narcissistic partner who leads a life of crime, Layla decides to take her revenge with the assistance of Luciano. Is Luciano here to help, or does he make a deal with Layla for his own benefit? A powerful, intense telling of the story of one women’s spiraling descent into her own delusions and fragile mind.

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