The Theatreguide.London Review
Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.
Royal Court Theatre Autumn 2019
Veteran playwright Caryl
Churchill has written four short plays that individually might be very
impressive as the work of a student playwright at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Put together in a full
evening they still remain little more than impressive as the work of a
student playwright at the Edinburgh Fringe.
As the work of one of
Britain's leading playwrights, the evening must be accepted as left-handed
throwaway stuff, skilfully made but adding up to little.
The opening piece, Glass, is
the most delicate and poetic, as four young people imagine themselves to
be ordinary household objects – a clock, a vase, a knick-knack and a pane
of glass. Slowly we sense these are their ways of protecting themselves
from the world, by being strong, lovely, negligible or invisible.
It is a small point but it is
made delicately and efficiently, and doesn't outstay its welcome.
Kill is the wittiest,
essentially a monologue by an actor representing all the Greek gods and
telling the story of the house of Atreus – the long string of atrocities,
revenges and counter-revenges leading up to the Oresteia – from the
Olympian point of view.
His attitude ranges from
amazement at the human capacity for violence to amusement at the human
capacity for stupidity, all with the comfortable distance of not really
It is essentially an extended
revue sketch, but a good one, and even raises thoughts of human political
and military leaders who don't really relate to the people whose lives and
deaths they affect. Actor Tom Mothersdale maintains precisely the right
understatedly ironic tone to make this the strongest play of the four.
The third, Bluebeard's
Friends, is by far the weakest, a single joke revue sketch extended beyond
its natural length even at fifteen minutes. The nice middle class people
who knew a man exposed as a serial killer move rapidly from insincere
protestations of shock to finding ways of profiting from their connection
The fourth, Imp, is an actual
one-hour play, but one that is about very little and has very little to
A middle-aged couple with
empty existences try to live vicariously through, and interfere with, the
romance of a younger couple. It turns out that they can't really affect
anything, even with the help of the genie they believe they have trapped
in an old wine bottle.
A play about not much
happening with not much likely to happen sometimes evokes thoughts of
early Pinter, and Deborah Findlay plays the dim and dotty older woman as
Meg from The Birthday Party.
Director James Macdonald is to be credited for seeing that each play required a different tone and style, and for guiding his cast – which also includes Toby Jones and Louisa Harland – to serve each in the best way.
But that doesn't make them add up to much.
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