The Theatreguide.London Review
Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.
Royal Court Theatre Autumn 2019
Caryl Churchill has written four short plays that individually might
be very impressive as the work of a student playwright at the
Put together in a full
evening they still remain
little more than impressive as the work of a student playwright at
the Edinburgh Fringe.
As the work of one of
playwrights, the evening must be accepted as left-handed throwaway
stuff, skilfully made but adding up to little.
The opening piece,
Glass, is the most delicate and poetic, as four young people imagine
themselves to be ordinary household objects – a clock, a vase, a
knick-knack and a pane of glass. Slowly we sense these are their ways
of protecting themselves from the world, by being strong, lovely,
negligible or invisible.
It is a small point but
it is made
delicately and efficiently, and doesn't outstay its welcome.
the wittiest, essentially a monologue by an actor representing all
the Greek gods and telling the story of the house of Atreus – the
long string of atrocities, revenges and counter-revenges leading up
to the Oresteia – from the Olympian point of view.
ranges from amazement at the human capacity for violence to
amusement at the human capacity for stupidity, all with the
comfortable distance of not really caring.
It is essentially an
extended revue sketch, but a good one, and even raises thoughts of
human political and military leaders who don't really relate to the
people whose lives and deaths they affect. Actor Tom Mothersdale
maintains precisely the right understatedly ironic tone to make this
the strongest play of the four.
The third, Bluebeard's
Friends, is by
far the weakest, a single joke revue sketch extended beyond its
natural length even at fifteen minutes. The nice middle class people
who knew a man exposed as a serial killer move rapidly from insincere
protestations of shock to finding ways of profiting from their
connection to him.
The fourth, Imp, is an
actual one-hour play, but
one that is about very little and has very little to say.
middle-aged couple with empty existences try to live vicariously
through, and interfere with, the romance of a younger couple. It
turns out that they can't really affect anything, even with the help
of the genie they believe they have trapped in an old wine bottle.
play about not much happening with not much likely to happen
sometimes evokes thoughts of early Pinter, and Deborah Findlay plays
the dim and dotty older woman as Meg from The Birthday Party.
Director James Macdonald is to be credited for seeing that each play required a different tone and style, and for guiding his cast – which also includes Toby Jones and Louisa Harland – to serve each in the best way.
But that doesn't make them add up to much.
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