The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Mint Theater Summer 2020
New York's Mint Theatre
specialises in rediscovering neglected plays from the first half of the
Twentieth Century, like this 2016 staging of a 1938 drama by Irish writer
The strengths of the play lie
in its close examination of small lives; the weaknesses of the play lie in
how little it actually finds.
This is an almost plotless
character study of a group of teachers in the staff lounge of a small
Any hints of salaciousness in
the title are misleading. The fact that the live in an all-female world is
less significant than the hermetic claustrophobia of their world, and the
way being together brings out the worst in them.
While there is eventually a
crisis, and one character leaves under a cloud, the main focus is on the
petty day-to-day conflicts and the cost of such small lives to their
The characters are a
cross-section of stereotypes. There's the dessicated spinster, the
snobbish pedant, the bright-eyed newcomer, the cynic and so on.
Comically tiny squabbles of
the 'You're in my chair' sort alternate with glimpses into the pathetic
emptiness of their lives. Alliances and betrayals come and go with a speed
and randomness that would bewilder even their adolescent charges.
There is much that rings true
here, but there is also much that is totally predictable once the
stereotypes have been established. Nobody and nothing really changes –
which, of course, may be part of the point, but which does not make for
Faced with playing characters
written with only one note each, the cast and director Jenn Tuompson take
the only choice really available to them – full commitment to the text,
without a hint of condescension or ironic distancing, and their dedication
carries the play over some of its weaker stretches.
Particularly impressive are
Emily Walton as the newbie, Mary Bacon as the cynic and Kellie Overbey as
The multi-camera recording is skilled, though the sound quality wavers.
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