Felicity Huxley-Miners addresses Borderline Personality Disorder in her new play, In The Shadow Of The Mountain. Theatre editor Daniel Perks joins Rob and Ellie on their journey into the abyss:

Both Rob (David Shears) and Ellie’s (Felicity Huxley-Miners) story rushes past us like the train (or maybe it’s a tube) that Rob almost throws himself under at the start of In The Shadow Of The Mountain. It’s too fast, too sudden for us to gain any kind of traction or connection with the flawed characters. We don’t sympathise with either situation – Rob’s is introduced in an expositional manner, while Ellie’s backstory is threadbare at best. The overriding theme of this production lacks specificity or poignancy.

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

David Shears & Felicity Huxley-Miners

The premise is sound – we chart a whirlwind romance between an unlikely pair who cling to each other like a lifeline, rather than mutually supporting their individual journeys of discovery. Rob is in a void of depression & suicidal thoughts; Ellie saves him. Or rather, she drags him from his personal vacuum into her own mental health crisis – one with multiple personality traits and an unpredictable, unstable baseline. Huxley-Miners captures some of the subtlety in her own character, as she flits from darkly comic to highly strung with all the toing and froing of a tennis match. Of the two, Ellie is the most effective combination of narrative and execution – Huxley-Miners piles layers and complications on top of each other. For the most part, these pay off.

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

Felicity Huxley-Miners & David Shears

But as Huxley-Miners projects her neuroses outward, looking to bounce off her co-actor, she is met with nothing in return. In terms of personality, In The Shadow Of The Mountain is far too one-sided; Ellie has drained Rob of any impetus or impact and is forced to overcompensate. Shears plays the gullible sap but doesn’t bring anything more nuanced into his performance. Richard Elson’s direction doesn’t counter this in any way either – every moment is too heavily focussed on Ellie, whose lack of background results in an uphill battle when trying to make her relatable.

The production packages itself as a newly characterised narrative, addressing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in a way that isn’t prominent in today’s mental health-heavy theatrical landscape. And there are some enjoyable tugs of war within the show – toxic male emasculation from a manipulative partner; the need to cling to another rather than confront your own shortcomings. But both script and realisation have gaping chasms in their construction – they don’t ask or challenge their audience, nor do they engender a sense of connection to their protagonists.

Shadow Mountain Old Red Lion Theatre

David Shears & Felicity Huxley-Miners

In the end, In The Shadow Of The Mountain loses its own sense of direction, desperately trying to conclude with a rushed climax and an unsatisfying reconciliation. An attempt at morality in the last few lines is the nail in the coffin – this production doesn’t know its own mind, it doesn’t have a clear voice or statement to make.

 

 

★★☆☆☆

In The Shadow Of The Mountain runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 2 June 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.