BLUE HEART – Orange Tree Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Carole WoddisLeave a Comment


Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London – until 19 November 2016

 

This revival of Caryl Churchill’s 1997 Royal Court original is another grand example of the astuteness of Paul Miller. A co-production this time with Bristol’s acclaimed Tobacco Factory Theatre, such collaborations have allowed him to take many more risks than would probably have been the case going it alone.

And the remarkable thing is that despite Miller having cast his net wide with new work from some of the edgiest writers around such as Alistair McDowall, Alice Birch, Deborah Bruce, Chris Urch and Brad Birch, Churchill’s nearly twenty year old play still seems more audacious than any. Churchill has never stopped reshaping or redefining what theatre can mean in today’s society. Watching Blue Heart you realise that Churchill is the great atonal modernist, the Schoenberg of theatre. She shapes her plays for form to match content.

So family dissonance in Heart’s Desire becomes fragmentation – a story constantly uprooted from its moorings by distress, argument, anxiety, apprehension, repeated over and over again in different patterns, each piece of the jigsaw sliding away from its previous appearance until towards the end, we almost…almost…get the straight narrative.

A family are awaiting the arrival from Australia of their daughter – a mother, father, slightly demented aunt and dishevelled son. Fail and fail again, as Beckett might have said as Amelda Brown’s Alice sets and unsets the table a dozen times whilst Andy de la Tour’s Brian prowls, Amanda Boxer’s Maisie launches into a speech to which no one listens and Alex Beckett’s Lewis enters drunkenly or with bespattered trousers. Enter also at one point, deliciously, a proud emu! Absurdity sits alongside infinite, possible scenarios and pain, each layering adding to the other.

An extraordinary challenge for any cast, repeating but not quite repeating themselves, Churchill emerges in Blue Kettle in even more audacious form as conman Derek (Beckett again, sympathy oozing out of every pore) lays claim to four different women as his biological mother who gave him away at birth.

The human trick is here mirrored by Churchill beginning to substitute `blue’ and `kettle’ into their conversations until, at the last, unmasked, Derek and Amanda Boxer’s first mother, Mrs Plant, face each other uttering merely syllables: `bl, bl, k, k, k’, as if the words themselves had lost all meaning and the ability of their speakers to utter them.

David Mercatali directs with a fine ear to Churchill’s, as with Beckett and Pinter, latent humour, discipline and rigour.

Bewildering but unquestionably bracing, like a good douse in cold water.

Blue Heart runs at the Orange Tree Theatre to Nov 19, 2016
Review first published on this website, Nov 3, 2016

Blue Heart
By Caryl Churchill

Heart’s Desire
Cast:

Brian: Andy de la Tour
Alice: Amelda Brown
Maisie: Amanda Boxer
Susy: Mona Goodwin
Lewis: Andy Beckett
Young Woman: Tracy Lee Sharples

Blue Kettle
Cast:

Derek: Alex Beckett
Enid: Mona Goodwin
Mrs Plant: Amanda Boxer
Mrs Oliver: Amelda Brown
Mrs Vane: Janet Henfrey
Mr Vane: Andy De La Tour
Miss Clarence: Maroussia Frank
Derek’s mother: Gillian Axtell

Director: David Mercatali
Designer: Angela Davies
Sound Designer & Composer: Max Pappenheim
Lighting Designer: Chris Swain
Costume Supervisor: Bianca Ward
Casting Consultant: Vicky Richardson

Assistant Director: Andy Bewley
Sound Associate: Richard Bell
Fight coordinator: Jonathan Howell

An Orange Tree and Tobacco Factory Theatre co-production

First perf of this production at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol, Sept 22, 2016

First perf at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London, Oct 13, 2016

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Carole Woddis on RssCarole Woddis on Twitter
Carole Woddis
Carole Woddis has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. She was London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines. She has contributed to other websites including The Arts Desk, Reviews Gate and London Grip and now blogs independently at woddisreviews.org.uk. Carole is also the author of: The Bloomsbury Theatre Guide with Trevor T Griffiths; a collection of interviews with actresses, Sheer Bloody Magic (Virago), and Faber & Faber’s Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama with Stephen Unwin. For ten years, she was a Visiting Tutor in Journalism at Goldsmiths College and for three years with City University. Earlier in her career, she worked with the RSC, National Theatre, Round House and Royal Ballet as a publicist and as an administrator for other theatre and dance organisations.
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Carole Woddis on RssCarole Woddis on Twitter
Carole Woddis
Carole Woddis has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. She was London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines. She has contributed to other websites including The Arts Desk, Reviews Gate and London Grip and now blogs independently at woddisreviews.org.uk. Carole is also the author of: The Bloomsbury Theatre Guide with Trevor T Griffiths; a collection of interviews with actresses, Sheer Bloody Magic (Virago), and Faber & Faber’s Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama with Stephen Unwin. For ten years, she was a Visiting Tutor in Journalism at Goldsmiths College and for three years with City University. Earlier in her career, she worked with the RSC, National Theatre, Round House and Royal Ballet as a publicist and as an administrator for other theatre and dance organisations.

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