The Theatreguide.London Review
Royal Court Theatre January-March 2016
In Caryl Churchill's short (50 minutes) play four older women spend a pleasant afternoon sitting in a garden chatting.
Three of the four know each other well enough to leave sentences unfinished or merely allude to old stories or old jokes, and they happily fill the fourth in when necessary.
We gradually discover that each has some known or hidden darkness in her. One is filled with repressed rage that comes out in bizarre fantasies of mass deaths by flood, fire, poison gas and the like. One has a pathological fear of cats, one is depressed and agoraphobic, one actually killed her husband and spent time in prison.
These exposures generally come out in frame-breaking monologues of macabre inventiveness and eloquence, after which everything continues as if not interrupted.
And so Churchill has a couple of small things to tell us – that there can be dark secrets in the most ordinary-looking of people, and that shallow friendships, empty small talk and ordinary lives can be effective ways of controlling or at least living with the darker bits.
Those are not very big revelations, and wisely Churchill did not try to build a full-length play on them. But even at 50 minutes Escaped Alone feels more like an extended revue sketch than a real play – I could easily see breaking it up into 10 minute segments and making it the 'running gag' of a revue.
If there ultimately isn't a great deal to it, Escaped Alone does offer some pleasure in the virtuoso eloquence of the more macabre monologues, and the inestimable pleasure of watching four talented and charming actresses – Linda Bassett, Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham and June Watson – at work.
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