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Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Mar 23, 2006 - 08:52 AM Archive

by Sarah Ruhl

Crucible Studio To 8 April 2006
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 25 March & 8 April 3pm, 30 March 2pm
BSL Signed 29 March
Runs 2hr One interval

TICKETS: 0114 249 6000
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 March

The house may be clean, but life Ė thatís a more complicated matter.

Whatís a womanís world these days? A career, like doctor Lane, who hires someone to keep her house clinically clean? Or the domestic pride of her sister Virginia, too possessive to hand her home over to anyone else for sprucing up and scrubbing down? Maybe itís Matildeís, over from Portugal, a blithe young spirit searching for the perfect joke. None can control their nature; any more than Ana who, in deep maturity, discovers love with erstwhile faithful Charles.

Love sends him to the worldís end, but all the characters are driven towards extremes by their nature in American Sarah Ruhlís comic fantasy. Her first act is extremely funny; its successor stretches the light fantastic manner over more serious material. Itís here comic pointing seems dramatic shorthand, the way of the cartoon rather than the portrait.

Samuel Westís immaculate production catches this style perfectly, realising humour is accompanying the path of mortality. Even Matildeís search for the perfect joke is an attempt to replace one she never knew, from which her parents died laughing. Itís also a search she realises may end in death, when life can offer no more.

Rebecca Santos is bubblingly vibrant, Patricia Hodge catches every nuance of Laneís frustrations, fury and the self-control that brakes it, while Selina Cadell is a finely comic picture of candour, her Veronica determined itís time to speak what she feels, however prosaic.

Robert East is suitably tactful as a character who is always a projection of some womanís image of him. But Eleanor Bronís Ana stands out, even amid this fine ensemble, as a woman who has discovered late in life an entirely satisfying, consuming love, which Bron expresses with an affecting intensity thatís whole-hearted yet subtly expressed..

Thereís a spotless, antiseptically white set by Ashley-Martin Davis, untidied only by the apples that are the fruit of Charles and Anaís renewed interest in an Eden-like existence as the second act opens from domestic order to the wider world. Itís all very at home in its English setting, a skilfully-played game, its cartoon selection and exaggeration catching its characters to the life.

Ana/A Woman: Eleanor Bron
Virginia: Selina Cadell
Charles/A Man: Robert East
Lane: Patricia Hodge
Matilde: Rebecca Santos

Director: Samuel West
Designer: Ashley Martin-Davis
Lighting: Mark Jonathan
Movement: Leah Hausman
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