THEATRE / The cream in her coffee: Rhoda Koenig grapples with Obsession in Battersea
Friday 09 October 1992
Stripped of detail about their lives and backgrounds, Douglas McFerran's two characters are not only baffling but boring and, finally, incredible. We see Nick briefly messing about with a drawing and a T-square, so he must be an architect. But what is the work that keeps Nina busy on Saturday night, yet allows her to slope off for afternoons under the duvet? Considering the amount of time she spends in galleries, one assumes it has something to do with art, though her interest has a strong erotic focus. At an exhibition of the Vienna Decadents, she explains, 'The whole death imagery thing symbolises orgasm.' More recent imagery leaves Nina cold. When Nick suggests, at another show, that they make love on a soft sculpture, she says, 'I wouldn't dream of consecrating that heap of cowshit with the approbation of my sacred womanhood.' In the next-to-last scene, Nina reveals that she has become an art director at a publishing house and is producing a book on Kokoschka. 'He turns out to have been an extraordinary guy.' Not only did he have a mistress, but 'he was totally potty about her.'
Of Nina's family, we learn only that her husband is called Jack, and that her mother wanted her to be proper and would be shocked by all this rumpy-pumpy. Of Nick's life beyond the eiderdown, we learn nothing. Perhaps McFerran intended that, free of distracting personal information, his characters would represent pure, raw passion. But without those defining, colouring details, they are reduced to talking in cliches long abandoned by the more respectable women's magazines: 'I owe it to myself. I've got to try something else.'
In Bill Pryde's production at Battersea, as little heat as light is generated by Douglas Hodge's puppyish Nick and Tessa Peake- Jones's arch, domineering Nina. When Nick returns a tool he borrowed from her absent husband, Nina takes the opportunity to display her legs and offer one-and-a- half-entendre DIY advice about drilling deep and inserting rawl plugs. Nina's tough talk (after three years with him, she tells Nick, 'Let's face it, all I get from you is cock') doesn't go with her chatter about loving and being in love, nor does it discourage Nick, who, in their fourth year together, is begging her to marry him. Though Nick is younger and more pleasing than Nina, he doesn't outgrow his pottiness until she is unfaithful: supplied with a psychological CV, one might believe in his immaturity and masochism; without it, one can only find him a case of passive stupidity.
Just as we're stumped for an explanation of why the affair begins and carries on, we're not told why it vanishes without trace. Accidentally meeting Nick a few years after they part, Nina manages a fourth-form metaphor about a meteor: 'The tremendous white heat of its body has consumed it, until there's nothing left.' A better clue might be found in the final scene, in which Nina, at the height of her feeling for Nick, declares with thundering irony, 'We're going to love each other forever.' Disregarding the vital beverage of their relationship, Nick has poured her a cup of tea.
Battersea Arts Centre, London SW11 (071-223 2223)
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Winnie the Pooh banned from Polish playground for being 'inappropriate hermaphrodite'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Willow and Jaden Smith talk duality of apples, holographic realities and the melancholia of the ocean in incredible New York Times interview
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'