Robert Tanitch reviews Blue Heart at Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Surrey
BLUE HEART, two one-act plays by Caryl Churchill, author of such popular successes as Cloud Nine, Top Girls and Serious Money, is a co-production by Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre and Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre.
David Mercantali’s production is its first major revival since its premiere in 1997.
HEART’S DESIRE, the first play, is an amusing example of the Theatre of the Absurd, which flourished in the 1950s and early 1960s, led by Eugene Ionesco and Samuel Beckett.
I came out of the theatre wondering how on earth the actors had managed to learn it
It’s not that the actual text is difficult but that the actors have to keep stopping and restarting. Sometimes they go back only a few lines. Sometimes they speak only part of the sentence. Sometimes they speak only the last word.
A father (Andy De La Tour), a mother (Amelda Boxer) and an aunt (Mona Goodwin) are waiting for the return of their 35-year-old daughter after a long absence
They never know who might enter the room next. It could be their daughter, their drunkard son, screaming children, gunmen, a lesbian Australian backpacker. It could be an ostrich.
The tape is rewound 27 times! There are 27 alternative scenarios, which become more and more surreal. How do the actors remember which sequence they are in?
BLUE KETTLE, the second play, is more serious and sadder and not nearly as accessible. A con-man (Alex Beckett) tricks sad, vulnerable old women into believing that they are his long lost mother and that he is the illegitimate baby they abandoned at birth.
As the play goes on the language disintegrates and the words “blue” and “kettle” start to replace all the nouns and verbs until, blue me, the audience finds itself listening to a lot of kettle – geriatric nonsense.