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Posts Tagged ‘Adelle Leonce’

I’ve not seen an Alice Birch play before, but I have seen a lot of Katie Mitchell’s productions, which is why I didn’t book for this until after the reviews and after an invitation from friends; in short, I’ve grown to dislike her directorial dominance. However, I very much admired her work here, though it is challenging and bleak – we were given Samaritans contact details on the way out!

There are three scenes running in parallel throughout the play, the first in the seventies / eighties, the second c.25 years after and the third c.35 years later again, in the future. The years appear above every scene, but it is like a jigsaw, and it takes a while to work out that we’re with three generations of women. Carol, her daughter Anna, whose mother committed suicide in her teens and who herself commits suicide soon after giving birth to Bonnie, who is trying to avoid the same happening to her. It hints that this may be genetic, or that a mother’s suicide damages the child, however young, and later that even the house in which they all lived may play a part.

The overlapping dialogue is challenging, particularly at first. The scene changes, where other actors change the three protagonists’ clothes, are initially riveting but do become repetitive. The biggest problem though is the two-hour length – in my view, it would have been a better play if they had cut 20-30 minutes, and there are scenes, like an altercation between A&E doctor Bonnie and a patient’s relative, that seem unnecessary. Hattie Morahan as Carol and Adelle Leonce as Bonnie are terrific, but I felt Kate O’Flynn as Anna over-acted, particularly during her troubled late teens, as she did in The Glass Menagerie in the West End earlier in the year.

An intelligent and cleverly structured play that I admired rather than enjoyed, but glad I saw.

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Well, you certainly have to put in some work with this play by Nathanial Martello-White. It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. My brain was hurting trying to work out who was who, the time and sequence of scenes and what was and wasn’t true. It wasn’t completely rewarding, though I admired it’s cleverness and all of the performances.

When you enter the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs you seem to be in some sort of public hall. There’s a circle of those dreadful grey plastic chairs and we surround them sitting on similar ones. At first it seems like a family therapy session, with the focus on Angel, who may or may not have been abused. Eventually we work out that the others are her mother and stepfather, her brother, her mum’s three sisters, one a twin, with her son, Angel’s cousin. Angel’s biological dad comes in later. It moves back and forth in time and we learn the views of the various family members on the alleged abuse, together with much family history and some actual history. Doubts emerge about the truthfulness of Angel’s claims. Sometimes characters are talking about others not there, though they are looking on and acknowledged with eye contact.

It instantly grabbed my attention and held me throughout, partly because I was working hard on the jigsaw and partly because of the compelling performances, particularly from Adelle Leonce as Angel. It’s miraculous that the actors don’t lose their way given the staccato nature of the dialogue, sometimes overlapping. It wasn’t entirely conclusive and I didn’t engage with it emotionally much of the time, probably because my brain was working too hard for my heart to click in, which is why it wasn’t entirely satisfying. Still, it’s an original piece, clever, intellectually engaging and beautifully performed, and I would recommend seeing it.

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