Backward Glance at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

Multi Story presents a gripping two-hander about creativity, relationships and the cult of celebrity

An esteemed writer with the popular touch dies in shady circumstances. Her husband, also a writer, must face three women – an investigator, a probing journalist and a grieving mother – to explain himself and their life together. Did he feel eclipsed by his wife’s talent, her brighter star? Was he guilty of marital neglect or a crime more tangible?

With a razor-sharp script – and excellent use of scene-setting digital imagery – Backward Glance delves deep into the creative process, exploring the genesis of inspiration, the notion of authenticity and the impact on the psyche. There’s a touch of magic realism that channels both the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and taps into the idea of ‘assisted’ inspiration so beloved of the Romantics. In his intense portrayal of one half of a literary partnership, Bill Buffery allows us to make the not-so wild imaginative leap to another ‘power’ couple who danced with the dark side of creativity – Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Through the female characters (Gill Nathanson slips between them with seemingly effortless ease), the script unpacks the notions of perception, memory, and the mythologies that we create about ourselves and those we love.

You know how a move trailer can sometimes totally ruin your experience of the film? It would be a joy to unpack some of the scenes in Backward Glance and shout about their power, their complexity and the compelling performances of the two actors, but this play is worth seeing with as little preamble as possible – the narrative is so intelligently constructed and the story so tantalisingly revealed (it demands your close attention and rewards it), that I’d be in danger of giving too much away.

Go and be thrilled.

Backward Glance, written and performed by Multi Story Theatre Company, runs until Sat 28th January at The Bike Shed Theatre.

7.30pm, �10 (�7)