You can listen to Hannah’s review below, the written review is below that.
As I have previously stated, Caryl Churchill is easily one of my favourite playwrights. After seeing ‘Pigs and Dogs’ a few months earlier, to hear that this production of ‘Escaped Alone’ is only 50 minutes long is not surprising. While not all her plays are so short in time in comparison to a lot of productions on the theatre circuit at the moment, there is something really clever and interesting that she is able to condense so much emotion, thought provocation and comedy in a small amount of time, with the ability to make a serious point about current times.
Escaped Alone sees 4 older women sat in a garden, talking about whatever comes to mind. In 50 minutes we hear their darkest fears and confessions, with each character being established easy, quickly and well, not only with the writing but by the performer’s abilities. We have times of conversation which borderlines Harold Pinter’s coined writing of short sentences, interruption and pause, soliloquies of the characters and what they are really thinking and feeling away from the conversation, and our newest member of the gang who had happened to stumble on this group, breaking away from the scene entirely to give us a description or perhaps prediction of how man and his obsessions and excess have impacted our World; apocalyptic in ideals, it is strangely darkly comical but also slightly frightening.
Some will recognise and feel star struck by the cast – Linda Bassett, our newbie to the group, is well known for her role in the current show Call The Midwife; Deborah Findley, the lady with an irrational fear of cats, from many roles, notably the recent The Lady in the Van and a return to The Royal Court stage from The Children back in December 2016; Kika Markham, our lady with a fear of going outside, also well versed in UK television such as Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife; And finally our funny lady of manslaughter, June Watson, another regular to The Royal Court and of whom joined Findley in The Lady in the Van. These regulars to our TV, Film and Theatre scenes of course know their theatre, know their skills and simply comparing them from this production to former roles can see that with age, certainly comes experience. They are able to complement one another, bring a sense of naturalism and realism to the piece, so that when we have cut aways and taken from the scene to monologues, it breaks the ease and breaks this natural barrier – we are then not just listening to 4 women chatting over a cup of tea.
Again, The Royal Court never ceases to amaze. With each production, they are able to take such natural and seemly relatable texts and turn it on its head. A simple garden scene, is then punctured by bright lighting and dark and deep dialogue. It really becomes an experience, and in the context of Escaped Alone, creates uncertainty (that we welcome) as to whether parts are comical, serious, or a farce.
Churchill and The Royal Court gel together better than tea and biscuits.