NEW stages: Confession under Duras

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The Independent Culture
Usually you would have to hunt quite hard to find a Marguerite Duras play on the British stage - suddenly London boasts two. This offers a rare chance to appreciate both the fascination and the difficulty of this evasive writer. For though both p roductions have style and passion, neither quite manages to weave the spell of her writing, which is as elusive as the happiness her characters chase.

At BAC, Suzanna Andler is the more straightforward of the two. Suzanna, a millionaire's wife of a certain age, is deciding whether or not to rent an expensive house for the summer holiday. As she lingers in the empty house, it becomes clear that this decision has far more significance for her than the question of where to pass the month of August - it pinpoints a crisis in her struggle to take control of her life. Despite her wealth, she is a deceived, unhappy and trapped woman - her marriage is a sham and her lover repeatedly makes it clear that the affair is only temporary.

As she waits in the house, she is visited by her lover and by one of her husband's lovers, Monique - but we are never sure what is real and what is interior monologue made concrete for us to see. This gives the play a shifting, alluring, mysterious mood that is fiendishly difficult to catch. Lisa Forrell's production doesn't quite get there, though Susan Hampshire gives Suzanna a nervy vulnerability and anxiety to please that is charming, yet sad.

In Savannah Bay, tackled by Koncrete Theatre Company at the New Grove, the shifting layers are even trickier to negotiate. Here Madeleine (Anna Chauveau), a former actress, is visited every day by a young woman (Lisa D'Agostino) who may or may not be hergranddaughter. Between them they reconstruct the story of Madeleine's daughter, Savannah, who drowned herself for love at 17. The story unfolds in fragments, the elliptical style leaving us, again, uncertain as to what is real, but drawing us in with its startling, dream-like imagery. The company has a good stab at this difficult piece, using just lighting and composition to give the play a shape on stage. They come up with some striking images, which occasionally seem contrived - paradoxically, you feel the full power of the piece would emerge if the production was less studied, more lyrical, and relaxed.