Dreams of Violence, Soho Theatre, London
Tuesday 21 July 2009
Hildy has a lot on her plate: mum's an alcoholic, dad's in a nursing home, son's a drug addict, and husband's an adulterer. On top of that, she wants to clean up greed and is remodelling her heyday in the "women against pit closures" campaign in order to mobilise women against bankers.
She has found a pair of comedy office cleaners to rouse to action. They tie up a high flyer who has a nosebleed, shares his Scotch, and tells them he didn't want to be a banker; he wanted to do stand-up mathematics. The girls hand him the Marigolds and tell him to get cleaning.
This is fairly funny in the same way as Stella Feehily's lively play is fairly entertaining. It just seems a little mechanically put together, and Max Stafford-Clark's production for the Out of Joint touring company does not (as yet) have his killer touch or customary fluency.
The central character is near breaking point, but you never feel Catherine Russell's Hildy would do what her "voices" are driving her to, whether it be mutilating her surgeon husband Ben's genitalia or pushing mothers with buggies off the pavement. It's a perfectly affable performance, but it doesn't grab you.
She has showdowns with her Irish father and former pop singer mother, nicely done by Ciaran McIntyre and Paula Wilcox. The latter's turn in the reminiscence spotlight is not equivalent to Rose's turn in Gypsy. Wilcox despatches Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" as if to say she can sing her maternal role but not fulfill it; and she boasts of affairs with Dudley Moore and Oliver Reed.
The druggie son (Jamie Baughan) turns up on the mend, while a central scene of quasi-reconciliation with Ben (Nigel Cooke) prompts hot sex in the hallway while new girlfriend Honey, who's been told Hildy is dead, pushes her mouth through the letterbox. Thusitha Jayasundera plays the mouth and a cleaning lady, while Giles Cooper is a nurse and trussed-up financier.
Hildy's crisis is precipitated by the strain on her charitable instincts, while an enigmatically happy ending at Hildy's hospital bedside suggests the family has at last got round to saying they love her; there's a good dramatic point lurking, but that's where it stays: lurking.
There are some good jokes, though. What's the difference between a banker and a pigeon? A pigeon can still put a deposit on a Maserati. Boom boom; or rather, boom bust.
To 8 August (020 7478 0100; www.sohotheatre.com)
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