Horizontal Collaboration is a dark and powerful triumph

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What a venue Macarts in Galashiels is ... as perfect for small, intimate music gigs as it is for intensely powerful plays such as Fire Exit’s production of David Leddy’s Horizontal Collaboration, which visited the former church on Saturday evening.

With nods to Kafka’s The Trial, The Book of Judith in the bible, and Bela Bartok’s Bluebeards Castle, the one-act, hour-long play takes you through the proceedings in a trial at the Hague. involving witness Judith K, the widow of African warlord Josef K.

After his apparent assassination, Judith has to deal with the problems of leadership.

As such, she puts plans in place to ensure she is placed in a tent with Blaubart, the leader of a U.N. peacekeeping force which has been sent to the area.

It’s where the title Horizontal Collaboration comes from ... it was the term given to the crime of French women becoming over-familiar with Nazis during the Second World War ... in other words, sleeping with the enemy.

As the all-female cast play the judges at the trial, they also slip seamlessly into the characters of the witnesses – Saskia Ashdown’s portrayal of Judith’s half-sister, especially, is extremely slick.

With no scenery changes, and the lighting dramatically and steadily dimmed by the four actresses themselves, there is nothing that will allow your concentration to slip from the dark script.

Each actress has at her disposal two desklights and her laptop, each of which are turned off, giving the feeling that a countdown is happening. But a countdown to what? It certainly helps rack up the tension.

The actresses, Saskia Ashdown, Joanna Tope, Renee Williams and Camille Marmié, never skipped a beat over the course of the play in a flawless performance. Earlier versions of the play had all new actors sight-reading, whereas now it is rehearsed. It certainly works in this way, and I’d warmly encourage all to try and catch the performance during this tour. KJ