Playwright Zinnie Harris asks “what happens if you piss off a demon?” Don’t hold your breath.
The talented Maxine Peake plays a woman who is researching customer-business relations and applying for a job.
She has sex with a demon, not knowing he is a demon, and then finds he thinks she is a prostitute and wants to pay her 45 Euros; and when she refuses to accept his money, he leaves her with a nasty rash.
She travels across Europe to Alexandria. It is a nightmarish odyssey, a surreal adventure, in which she loses all her money and turns to prostitution.
How To Hold Your Breath is an unsatisfactory modern morality play about the European financial crisis, the collapse of the banks and the disintegration of society. There is, says the playwright, “a dark swamp at the bottom of the human soul.” Everybody goes under.
In Vicky Featherstone’s cluttered production, there is a highly artificial yet striking image of boat refugees drowning at sea, which could also be a metaphor for the European Union sliding into a Hieronymus Bosch-like abyss.
Michael Shaeffer is cast as the Demon who works for the UN. Peter Forbes is the librarian who has a “How To” book for every occasion, the titles providing most of the humour during the play’s logueurs. There is an amusingly absurd moment when Dana thinks he is the Demon in disguise.