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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Sewing Group
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs  Autumn 2016

I think that the point of E. V. Crowe's new play is that we are who we are, and that even in our fantasies we are likely to remain ourselves, just in a different setting. 

I have to guess that because The Sewing Group is not a very good play. 

It opens in what appears to be an eighteenth-century Amish-like village in which women sit quietly sewing all day long.

(Well, actually they're doing needlepoint, which seems a bit frivolous for this community, but precision is not the play or production's strong point.) 

A newcomer joins and eases into the group over a string of a dozen very short scenes of either silence or one or two gnomic lines. 

We might notice a few odd comments like ' I don't remember this bit' and references to keeping score and that's really as far as I can go without issuing a spoiler alert.* 

Suffice it to say that as the blackouts give way to more extended scenes things are shown to be not entirely or, indeed, at all as they seem. 

Unfortunately, the closer we get to reality, the more cliched the characters and less interesting the story, leading to a conclusion likely to leave you thinking 'Is that really all there is to it?' and wondering if it was worth the trip. 

No one in the cast comes out looking particularly good or bad, and director Stewart Laing isn't able to convert the playwright's perverse mystification into interesting mystery.

*(Note added after the show closed. The sewing group is actually a role-playing escape offered executives in a high-pressure company. The woman asked for an experience of anonymous low-pressure drudgery, but couldn't resist organising the others, setting goals and insisting on being graded. When the exercise ends she returns to her workoholic ways unaffected..)

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  The Sewing Group - Royal Court Theatre 2016  

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