THEATRE: Her Sister's Tongue; Lyric Hammersmith, London
Tuesday 22 July 1997
Of course, it's not really as simple as all that. Her Sister's Tongue is as much about jealousy and family ties as it is about love. It is also about style. Having worked on TV soaps for many years, Goddard takes a vast leap away from the confines of naturalistic dialogue and comes up with an unconventional comedy that turns increasingly surreal and dark.
"I'm really sorry about my family," says Alice. "They're nice girls really." Not so as you'd notice. Her smug daughter Eileen (a perky Janine Wood) is a week away from marrying Jim, a self-confessed nice bloke. "Please care for me," he tells us. Audiences being an obliging lot, we do, at least until we discover that he's also been fooling around with her sister Elizabeth (a powerfully sullen Virginia Radcliffe). She's all for keeping quiet, what with making the wedding dress, which involves such sophisticated techniques as laying Eileen on a table and cutting the fabric out around her. He, however, is desperate to make a clean breast of it.
Until now, this bizarre family sound as if they have walked out of an absurdist comedy from the 1960s. "If you want some sex then have some, but eat your supper first," snaps Alice, played by a marvellously brusque, brisk Eliza Hunt. Goddard pushes the farce button and the sexual confession leads to hilarious physical acts of revenge, climaxing in Eileen cutting out her sister's tongue to peals of laughter from the surprised audience.
Sadly, everything goes awry in the second half. Goddard's script goes into symbolic overdrive as we catch up with the family after some unspecified environmental tragedy. Elizabeth arrives on a visit from Australia where she has lived for 14 years since the events of Act 1, to find a scorched, barren land, with leaves withering on the vine of Nigel Lowery's boldly simple set. Even Jacquetta May's careful direction can't disguise the script's slide into portentousness with lines such as "we forget to love" clunking out of the mouths of the hapless cast.
Unlike Philip Osment's marvellous Flesh and Blood at this theatre, which also used a woman returning after years in Australia to show the effects of time on a fraught, tightly-wrought family, Goddard's writing is too sketchy to support her aims. We merely observe the emotional demands she makes of her characters, rather than sympathise. Tragedy replaces comedy but we're left feeling nonplussed and undernourished.
To 9 Aug. Booking: 0181-743 2311 David Benedict
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Dakota Johnson's 'It's only Isis' Saturday Night Live sketch sparks controversy
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
EastEnders may bring transgender character to Albert Square to challenge 'traditional' viewers
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how Corporation is funded