Greenwich Theatre, London – until 10 July 2021
In the aftermath of such an epochal event as a global pandemic, you can understand why many a theatre would tend towards the safer, warmer end of programming in order to attract audiences back out once again. Which is why is most gratifying to see some buck that trend, Greenwich Theatre doing so in quite some style in an evening of four short plays by Caryl Churchill entitled Bad Nights and Odd Days.
Predictably, it’s a fascinating, challenging, probing theatrical experience, that really does further cement Churchill’s totemic position in the landscape. From global apocalypses to bedroom conversations, her unmistakable linguistic prowess carves out startling insights into her characters and into the way we all wield words, their meaning so often veiled under layers of need and ambition, love and desperation.
The couple in 1971 radio play Abortive deal with the shifting power dynamic after a traumatic experience – Paul McGann and Kerrie Taylor both impressing here – whereas the three pairings of 1980’s Three More Sleepless Nights (which I enjoyed at the National way back when) all skirt around the different (and sometimes all too similar) challenges in their relationships, Dan Gaisford and Gracy Goldman making their mark here.
Pulling the lens away from the bedroom, you can’t help but be awed at the prescience that comes from Churchill, finely drawn out in James Haddrell’s production, dominated by the gnomic symbolism of Cleo Pettitt’s twisting set design. 1978’s Seagulls points to the inherent shakiness of celebrity culture and 1971’s Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen (set in 2010 no less) warns of how we might cope with impending ecological disaster. A smart piece of programming, a strong piece of theatre.