The Children by Lucy Kirkwood
At The Royal Court Theatre (Jerwood Downstairs)
2nd December, 2017
‘When we have a picnic or, camping we don’t just clear up our own litter, we go around and pick other people’s too.’
With fond memories of ‘Chimerica’ three years ago, dealing with global issues, I was looking forward to Lucy Kirkwood’s production. Honouring the Royal Court’s commitment to producing new work that reflects the issues of modern society, ‘The Children’ is in part a dystopic play. It opens up to Miriam Buether’s unassuming cottage kitchen on the ‘east’ coast by the sea, in the aftermath of a Fukushima-like nuclear incident (by implication in Suffolk, near Sizewell B). Hazel (Deborah Findlay) and Rose (Francesca Annis) reunite after 38 years. Both are scientists who helped to build the nuclear plant that has contaminated the country. In the years since Hazel has had four children with her husband, Robin, (Ron Cook) while Rose has led a more itinerant life, spending time in America. Now Rose arrives and railroads their conscience with a proposition for them. When Robin arrives, the home-made parsnip wine start to flow and the conversation takes a deeper, darker turn. Eventually, Robin coughs up blood and a Geiger counter crackles madly as it is passed across his clothes. All three are dying but some are more in denial than others. The small kitchen set is heavy with what is unspoken and what each woman is afraid to ask. Continue reading The Children
Lela & Co at the Jerwood Upstairs, The Royal Court
22nd September, 2015
‘As for what came next, things unspoken and untold until now, it happened like this…’
Once upon a time fairy tales weren’t meant just for children and neither is Cordelia Lynn’s Royal Court debut play, ‘Lela & Co’. It’s like a subversive 90 minutes take on a traditional fairy story. We join Lela (Katie West) in her mind; a surreal world of neon lights, leather furniture, plush red curtains and black and white floor. Lela is dressed in a tutu, swings in her rattan chair, speaking in a thick Yorkshire accent.
At first, Lela’s monologue is lyrical and excitable as she introduces us to her childhood, when she lived with sisters, Em and Elle, together with her parents and grandmother. Lela warns us, she will be telling ‘the whole truth’ and as she does, her narrative darkens. When her sister Elle marries a man called Jay, the 15-year-old Lela is ‘married’ off on one of his ‘business associates’, and taken abroad to an unnamed country. Lela is abused by her husband, and then in her innocence, she is `passed on’ from hand to hand passed onto his friends as a sex slave, finally sold to anyone willing to pay. Her world contracts rapidly until it is the size of a dirty mattress. In one moment of the darkest humour, their marital relationship is presented as if it was a business: Lela & Co. Concurrent with this are ethnic tensions which result in armed struggle, bombings, shootings and invasions. War might be bad for business, but Lela’s husband has learnt to exploit the needs of soldiers, prostituting his wife and making money.
Continue reading Lela & Co
‘The Nether’ by Jennifer Haley
At the Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Downstairs
26th July, 2014
‘Just because it is virtual doesn’t mean it isn’t real’
‘The Nether’ by American playwright, Jennifer Haley is one of the most exciting plays I have seen this year, not only for its uncomfortable dystopic exploration of its subject matter, but also for its visually stunning set design.
Haley’s world is a future where anyone can live through an avatar and experience anything imaginable. My hesitation in seeing this production came when I learned of the topic to focus the play’s discussion: Haley bravely uses the premise of paedophilia to polarise and challenge our moral perspective.
Aside, I remember my daughter being once addicted to ‘Myst’, an immersive computer game experience. Although the ostensible objective is the solution of the puzzles, the actual purpose for playing ‘Myst’ is the exploration of a seemingly real world that the creators of the game have made. The next generation of this game is the idea reworked to play ‘Sims’, where the way to achieve happiness is to satisfy your Sims’ needs. In order to do this, it is possible to create, direct and manage the lives of SimCity’s residents.
I recalled the game as the audience learns of the Hideaway, a vitual Darknet of The Nether; a paedophile’s paradise created by, ironically, a Mr Sims (a superb, sugar daddy performance from Stanley Townsend) who provides his guests with the perfect getaway to explore every part of these darkest fantasies – the abuse and murder of children. Yet, those involved are prisoners of their own desires. Continue reading The Nether
‘Jerusalem’ by Jez Butterworth at the Royal Court Theatre
‘And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?’
The play’s title, of course, is a nod to Blake’s 1808 poem but it becomes a hymn of identity and nationhood and belonging, set in a fictional Wiltshire village on St George’s Day. The tune is the most chosen in Britain at both weddings and funeral.
On one level, the plot is simple: the story of Johnny Byron’s last stand against the philistines who would evict him from his home is set largely within a period of 24 hours.
The start is explosive. A solo rendering of William Blake’s Jerusalem by Phaedra (a missing 15 year old) front of curtain crashes into the noise of the rave at Johnny’s the night before the story starts. Continue reading Jerusalem