FRINGE ROUND-UP: Kitchensink; Tricycle, Kilburn. The Seal Wife: Warehouse, Croydon.
Wednesday 05 February 1997
Kitchensink begins in the early Sixties with Daniel, a small boy playing soldiers beside an unfinished semi. He's wearing a mask which gives him a dumb expression, but, when he enters the building, he removes it. A little girl, Helen, comes in after him. She, too, takes off her mask. So does everyone else who visits the semi, as if the house were giving them freedom to be themselves.
The tone of the play is set when the children decide to take a trip to the nearby Devil Forest. Like so many other dreams in Kitchensink, the trip never happens. The play proceeds in a series of short scenes, Polaroid snapshots of Helen's life for the most part. The first semi is replaced by others, but each one yields a new disappointment. By the end, predictably, the Devil Forest has become Monument Down, and the monument is itself a folly "like everything today". Helen's husband teeters on the brink of alcoholism, and her Barbie-doll daughter is manipulative and spoilt.
There is something insufferably reactionary about all this: a vision of society where progress is only ever for the worse. Everyone is going to hell, and there are no return tickets. Even the children in the first scene are poisoned by a precocious nostalgia, lamenting the arrival of the first estate to blot the landscape. The result is like watching one of Philip Larkin's most curmudgeonly anti-modern poems adapted for the stage, but with neither Larkin's redemptive romanticism nor, sadly, his brevity.
An exceptional stillness hangs over Sue Glover's The Seal Wife (at the Warehouse). It's the natural quiet of a Scottish beach, which makes it hard to believe that Croydon, with its Sixties office blocks and low-flying jets, is just outside. Hard to believe, too, that Glover's play, written for Edinburgh's Little Lyceum in 1981, hasn't made it south of the border before now, even if it's not quite the finished article that her 1991 play Bondagers was.
At The Seal Wife's heart is the myth of the "silkies", seal-people who shed their skins and take on human shape. Alec (Mark Bonnar) is a loner who wanders the seashore with his shotgun, hunting seals. Rona (Lorna McDevitt) is a mysterious girl who emerges naked from the sea one spring night. Alec carries her home in his arms, to tend a powder burn on her ankle, and soon she is pregnant.
Both play and production boast a low-key naturalism, which rubs up neatly against the more opaque, symbolic aspects of the tale. No one ever mentions the silkie myth: Rona might be a runaway from a travelling fair, her burn easily explained away as an accident. Wisely, too, McDevitt doesn't strain to give Rona any preternatural aura. The myth of the hunter and the hunted, the free and the constrained, is allowed to work its magic unadorned, and - despite an ending that fizzles when it should ignite, following Rona's disappearance - it does so very well.
`Kitchensink' is at the Tricycle, Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 (0171-328 1000) to 1 March. `The Seal Wife' is at the Warehouse, Croydon (0181-680 4060) to 16 Feb
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 Is Ebola coming to Britain? UK health officials issue warning to doctors as outbreak fears grow
- 4 Richard Dawkins says 'date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse' on Twitter
- 5 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
'Phallic symbols' found hidden in famous Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Isabella' by John Everett Millais
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Freddie Prinze Jr on 24: 'Kiefer Sutherland was the most unprofessional dude in the world – I hated every moment of it'
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies trailer unveiled at Comic-Con
How did our legends really begin?
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
- < Previous
- Next >