Salt @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

One of manipulate Festival's Rising Voices, Fiona Oliver-Larkin examines domestic violence through a young girl's play with everyday objects

Review by Dominic Corr | 13 Feb 2019
  • Salt @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 2

Broaching the subject of domestic violence on stage is commendable, and often involves wrapping uncomfortable notions around symbols. Salt, the first solo piece from Fiona Oliver-Larkin, follows that pattern. Controlled and trapped within the confines of a domestic kitchen, even the bleakest of items in Salt shimmer with a gleam of escape. Bowls, kettles, weights and the seasoning itself all begin to act out of character as a young abused girl finds herself alone with only crockery for companionship. 

Through object manipulation, Oliver-Larkin conjures her own fairytale to escape the ominous noises heard from above, fabricating experiences in a role both as a survivor but also a champion of resistance. Indirectly the objects act in a semiotic manner, and salt is a prime example – beyond taste, salt is also sharp, and bitterly rubbed into the wounds. Later on, heaps of salt lash onto a small figure, thrown by a large bellowing kettle.

Drowned in the tiny bitter fragments, this is how Salt makes an impact. As two objects lay still, left isolated in the banks of white, Oliver-Larkin traces two wings – salt angels if you will. Tiny touches like this, small and unspoken, communicate volumes more than shrieks and stampings.

As a work-in-progress piece, Salt is encouraging. Oliver-Larkin’s physical performance is unsettling – childlike, but unnaturally so. Her bustling energy is endearing, though it feels out of step with what’s being staged in parts. We do connect to this girl who has so much life, yet shivers when sensing her abuser. Far from helpless, the courage Oliver-Larkin shows amidst the turmoil is stirring.

What Salt requires is less conjecture; it needs to know precisely what it wants to communicate. Individual aspects have merit, though lack focus in the grand scheme. Even if we are dealing with escapism there still has to be enough grounding for us to make a connection.

Pieces like Salt will communicate with many, but more so encourage those silent in the audience. With some tighter structure, added movement pieces and a longer runtime, Fiona Olivia-Larkin has the potential for a production which can be shared, discussed, and one she is no doubt proud of.

Salt @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, run ended