Three Women, Jermyn Street Theatre, London
Wednesday 14 January 2009
When babies were still seen as little pink bundles of love, Sylvia Plath had another view. To her, the newborn was a thief, of time, identity, and life itself. One of the three women in her radio play of 1962 (Plath killed herself the following year) enjoys motherhood, but not all the time. The secretary has a miscarriage, and the unmarried student, wishing she had had an abortion ("I should have murdered this that murders me"), gives her baby away.
Everywhere Plath's women turn, they meet whiteness. While the mother, "a river of milk," rejoices at the first narcissi, most of the white things convey blankness and pain – hospital sheets, bandages, a chamber that is "a place of shrieks". One woman is a shell on a white beach toward whom a wave is sending a "cargo of agony". They are surrounded by mirrors in which they are deformed or invisible.
Plath's poetry retains much of its power, but the boldness of its assertions is compromised by masochism and adolescent self-scrutiny; the spirit of Narcissus hovers over more than flowers. This quality is unfortunately emphasised, in Robert Shaw's only fitfully compelling production, by Elisabeth Dahl's performance as the mother – her wide eyes, cheeping-chick voice, and twinkly-princess air convey none of the relaxed sensuality of maternity. Lara Lemon's student is bland where she should be brisk. Only Tilly Fortune is believable as the reality-rumpled secretary who, when the student muses, "I am solitary as grass," ends the play by reminding us "Little grasses cracks through stone".
Shaw's use of thumpingly obvious music – eerie, plaintive, at times actually thumping – also compromises the play's intensity. But Lucy Read's set is just right.
To 7 February
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Martin Scorsese 'in shock and sorrow' after death on set of new film Silence
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia