If you're a nice middle class person, be prepared for an uncomfortable evening. Actually, if you're any kind of person, Ashleigh Wheeler's production of The Fever is not a gentle ride.
Wallace Shawn's monologue play deals with all those issues we'd rather not talk about at our safe Friday dinner parties. Or, perhaps, that we talk about constantly, instead of having to do anything. It concerns a traveller who awakens in a hotel room in a poor, revolution-torn country. She is in the grip of a fever. Her mind wanders in time and space as she grapples with the guilt and powerlessness experienced by well-to-do Westerners when confronted with the realities of global poverty and social injustice.
Sounds like a pretty dry night out, doesn't it? Don't panic. This is a poetic and dramatic study of things that matter. It leaves you marvelling at the speed at which 90 minutes have passed, and the ability of mere words to convey so rich a pageant of images and ideas.
Director Alice Malin gives you nowhere to hide. There's just a chair and an actor, and the words. Catrin Aron as the traveller – also with no hiding place in the intense space of The Old Fire Station – leads you completely into the delirious mind of her character. Only lighting designer Steve Heywood, with almost unnoticeable, but highly effective changes of light, gives her any other dramatic context to work with.
You go with her to glittering cocktail parties and 5-star ballrooms, and to sparse torture cells and horrific execution chambers. She turns herself from the brightest of young things into a harrowed and haggard woman. It's a remarkable performance.
First published in 1991, The Fever sadly has as much to say to us as it ever had. Three Streets, and Catrin Aron in particular, have given it a compelling new voice.