Fix opens with all the thrilling promise of a modern gothic fairytale: a knowing old woman lives in the middle of the woods and an unknowing young man steps into her home to be is entrapped in its darkness.
There is no wifi or telephone inside this crumbling house, only thunder and rain outside. Whatever is about to happen between the woman, Li Na (Tina Chiang), and Kevin (Mikey Anthony-Howe), a plumber called out to fix her ancient washing machine, will not be heard for miles.
While Fix has some creepy moments, the drama never quite builds to tautness. Both characters are intriguing in themselves but the performances are not freighted with enough fear or menace. Li Na has shades of a witch in modern dress, stealing Kevin’s sharp-edged tools and seemingly spiking his drink. But she does not become a real threat and the few unsettling scenes between them dissolve too quickly. Kevin seems too blithely unaware of the danger and his repressed guilt, which becomes key to the plot, is sprung on us in the final moments when he reveals a long-buried memory.
It is a shame because Julie Tsang’s script is full of ideas, blending the prosaic realism of a broken washing machine with flecks of east Asian culture and talk of enchanted trees and mythic beings. But even this magical realist element feels disconnected and increasingly hammy.
The bigger failings, though, are in pace and resolution: the timing is slow and the tone stays uncertain for too long. Li Na ends up as little more than a plot device, only there to provoke Kevin’s confession. If Fix is reminiscent of a Tales of the Unexpected story at first, it falls short on tension and a delicious final twist.
At the Pleasance, London, until 1 February.