THEATRE / Masterpieces - Etcetera Theatre, London NW1

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The Independent Culture
Masterpieces is strong on villains. They make an interesting array and they are all men - no unthinking coincidence as this engrossing yarn is so tightly knotted with feminist invective that the black-and-white case presented will leave male theatre-goers feeling black and blue.

Playwright Sarah Daniels, sometime script-writer of EastEnders and Grange Hill, grinds her axe relentlessly, but her production never loses its cutting edge; whether her argument stands or falls, she sustains ample interest in the three marriages portrayed. Two of the couples start the show in an unsettling state of unrest; all three end it in utter marital disaster.

The problem is the men: two of them are obviously misogynistic, but when the third, the liberated Female Eunuch-reading good guy, finally shows his true, similar colours, the male sex seems beyond redemption. The wives, having reached this conclusion for themselves (following an encounter with pornographic material), free themselves of their shackles, let down their hair and take a picnic under the shining sun in an agonisingly cliched statement of rebirth and purity. The message is clear to the point of being blindingly obvious, but an excellent cast creates and sustains the emotional involvement of the audience as well as forcing home the arguments.

To 23 Aug (071-482 4857)

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