Posts Tagged ‘Anna Calder-Marshall’

This is one of the most upsetting and unsettling plays I have ever seen. Like Ken Loach’s recent film I, Daniel Blake, it puts up a mirror to our current badly broken and inhumane welfare system. It’s more heart-breaking because you’re there, live, witnessing the helplessness and hopelessness. It’s a devastating experience, but it has to be seen.

They have literally turned the Dorfman Theatre into the communal area of a homeless hostel and we’re sitting in it. There’s an extraordinary roof with skylights scraped by the branches of trees. We can see into a couple of the rooms our characters inhabit. Sometimes they sit amongst us and at the end we are compelled to help one. It’s an extraordinary immersive experience, in full neon lighting so even the audience can’t hide their feelings.

Two homeless families are at the centre of the story. Newly arrived young couple Dean and Emma, with Dean’s two children Jason and Paige. Emma is heavily pregnant. They occupy one cramped room. In the room next door are Colin and his mum Barbara. He’s her carer. They’ve been there twelve months. There’s also a Somalian refugee and a Syria refugee who arrives and leaves during the play, but it’s the two British families experiences at the heart of the piece. Though we hear some of their back stories, it’s really about the system and how it treats them and the stress of being cooped up with no end in sight. Every character moved me at some point, but it was four people sharing one can of soup and some bread from a food bank, then the youngest child saying that she was still hungry, that moved me most. I’d eaten more before I left for the theatre.

Nick Holder’s Colin and Anna Calder-Marshall’s Barbara both had me in tears. Luke Clarke and Janet Etuk played Dean and Emma with great sensitivity and dignity, and Bobby Stallwood and Emily Beacock as Jason and Paige were extraordinary. Natasha Jenkins’ uber realistic design is stunning. This is the first work by writer director Alexander Zeldin I’ve seen and it’s hugely impressive.

The standing ovation seemed as much a statement of support for the homeless as it did admiration for one of the most authentic and moving pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. I now feel motivated to campaign and I start by urging you to go and see it.

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This is a pair of shorts by Arthur Miller which we haven’t seen in London for 23 years, so how can a Miller fan resist.

In I Can’t Remember Anything, we’re with neighbours Leo & Leonora. (It’s only now, 12 hours later, that I’m pondering the significance of those names – two sides of the same character / personality?). They are in life’s endgame, forever recalling the past, often disagreeing. Miller seems to be exploring how memories change depending on what we want to remember, our hindsight and disposition. He paints a rather poignant and moving picture of ageing which is beautifully staged and performed with great humanity by real husband-and-wife team David Burke and Anna Calder-Marshall.

Clara is a detective story. We’re in the apartment of Clara, who has been murdered, with her father and the detective who is questioning him. In a state of shock, her father is struggling to recall things, including the name of the ex-con who his daughter was seeing and who may be a prime suspect. He has visions of his daughter the detective doesn’t see and on one occasion they talk. Of course, it isn’t really a detective story as we’re again exploring issues of memory. Rolf Saxon as the father and Roger Sloman as the detective are both outstanding.

I’d be lying if I said I understood exactly what Miller is trying to say, but it certainly makes you think. Whatever you decide, you have to accept that director Ed Viney and designer Anna Finch have given them impeccable productions with the help of a first class cast that the best theatres in the land would be proud to have. Another gold star for Jermyn Street Theatre.

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