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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Going Potty
New End Theatre Spring 2007

Kate Wyvill's play is disguised as a comedy, but it is actually a rather moving look at that moment, just short of a midlife crisis, when people recognise that their lives have not taken the shape they had dreamed of.

There is a lot of humour in the play, but its real power lies in the originality and sensitivity of its sadder vision, and I'm inclined to think it has been mislabelled and mis-marketed.

It opens with pure farce, as a harried mother of three calls it quits and locks herself in the (remarkably spacious) wardrobe, much to the consternation of her husband. Wyvill finds all the jokes in the situation, but is wise enough to know that it can't be sustained for a full evening.

So the play surprises us by shifting to a flashback of the husband in his office the day before. Here we discover that his life is at as much of a crisis point as his wife's, with his job in jeopardy, a major client presentation to prepare, and an amorous female co-worker to fend off.

It is during this long central sequence that the play's tone subtly shifts, as the frustrations and anxieties we began by laughing at gradually become more real and more serious. And it is emblematic of the author's sensitivity that the play pauses to notice that that co-worker is herself beginning to buckle under the weight of her own independence.

And so when we come back to the present and that wardrobe, we are no longer laughing as much as recognising the very human tipping point the characters have reached. Either they are going to fall apart or they are going to have to find some way of coming to grips with the gap between their youthful aspirations and their present reality.

"What do you want from me," the wife cries in frustration. "Acceptance," answers the husband, and the need to accept each other and themselves as they have become is what the play is all about.

The author herself plays both the wife and the co-worker, finding all the depths and complexities in both, while Simon Greenway takes the husband on the psychological journey from stock comic figure to rounded and feeling human being.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Going Potty - New End 2007