Chapter, Cardiff, Wed 27 April 2005 £3 on the door
|The On The Edge season of script-in-hand productions has always been good value for money but a double bill seems almost extravagant – and a couple of such contrasting plays as these even more so.In the event, neither lived up to expectations – though it was far from a boring evening in Chapter’s Media Centre (which oddly has nothing to do with media and has a bar but doesn’t serve drinks).Susan Richardson’s Two of Me Now has had plenty of outings before this Cardiff premiere, but I can’t imagine how it works as a full production because it isn’t really theatrical: two characters, the iconic writers Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, talking about the relationship between art and life, may be of some interest to academics but has few of the ingredients to create engaging drama.
What it does have here is a brave direction from Sharon Morgan and a couple of clear-cut performances from Kathryn Dimery and Stacey Daly as a Woolf who thinks and a Plath who feels, two lives intersecting intellectually and parting emotionally. But there isn’t much that can be done with the script except have the pair occasionally speaking the same words, standing and sitting as two parts of the same feminine consciousness, occupying the similar and different ideological territories.
We don’t ever feel we are hearing the spoken voice here, and maybe each did talk as if she were writing – the text has all the hallmarks of a verbatim-theatre piece, a collage of extracts from books, essays and letters, and as such it might be more acceptable. But actually Ms Richardson has put her own words into the mouths of these two women and they are quite unconvincing; these are literary characters, not dramatic ones.
It’s intelligent, occasionally interesting, even tantalising in terms of where documentary ends and fiction begins as regards the characterisation, but it seems more of an exercise than a theatrical exploration of anything – and I didn’t end up knowing anything more about these fine writers and problematic people with difficult relationships.
I guess you could hardly get more of a contrast than Derec Jones’s Tossers – except that what it shared with Two of Me Now is the impression that it would make a better radio item than a theatre piece.
That’s despite an obsession with the audience that would be almost postmodernist if it weren’t treated so casually. In fact the whole piece is casual, playful and inconsequential as we have three characters in search of an author while waiting for a Godot called Bill.
One does feel that if Mr Jones took it more seriously, while retaining the anarchic sense of humour, there might be the basis of a short absurdist comedy – although we did have a lot of this sort of thing in the 1960s with Henry Livings, N F Simpson and Spike Milligan’s post-Ionesco nonsense plays.
Jams Thomas is good enough to hold it all together, just about, and it’s quite funny at times, but in the same way a student revue sketch is. Good fun, but hardly a play.