The Caryl Chruchill readings at the Royal Court might just be our favourite theatre happening of the year. Such an admired author and our knowledge of her was so limited: we had, of course, read "Light Shining In Buckinghamshire" as part of our accelerated Course On The Figure Of Edward Sexby to prepare for this fall Channel 4's The Devil's Whore. We thought "Light Shining In Buckinghamshire" a masterpiece but decided to wait for the reading to get a broader taste of Churchill.
The readings kicked off with "Owners" and if the West End Whingers often value productions by the "Cranford-factor" we have decided to do the same but with a "Life On Mars-factor" -wait for the upcoming review of "Ivanov" on that subject- and thus were excited by the prospect of seeing Ian Puleston Davies on stage: not only did he contribute to the Life On Mars-factor (and from one of our favourite episodes!) but he also penned the very nice tv-movie Dirty Filthy Love with the adorable Shirley Henderson, and he was part of the cast of Conviction, a cult show for us*.
What in the end comes through in these readings -apart from the magnificence, courage and modernity of Churchill's writing- is what a great ensemble the Court has attracted to do them. Money couldn't pay these actors in a normal production.
Crisis in the UK! Rehearsed readings is the answer!
Fine by us. The decision of putting these readings on the Downstairs Stage is a compliment to the author but we think the mood would have been more fitting if these had been done Upstairs. Or maybe we just favour Upstairs every time (it's one of the unwritten rules of Going To The Court: the plays Downstairs are usually shite and the plays Upstairs are amazing, and so far in our experience we concur). It's not like it was packed all nights.
But anyway, "Owners". As the first one Churchill wrote it is also the one we rated the least: we enjoyed it the whole time and it has great moments of brilliance -specially in the character of Alec- but it is also a bit uneven at parts. We are not that fascinated by the house market as a whole, or the baby plot. In general we dislike plots with babies in them, or female characters with motherly instincts. Clegg's character and the whole butcher set up reminded us a lot of The Bush's "Tinkerbox" and we wondered if Churchill is of any influence on Lucy Kirkwood. Maybe we should stop obssessing over Lucy Kirkwood.
The cast was in top form, even if this was just a reading, but it really looked like they had rehearsed quite a bit, so kudos to April De Angelis for the directing. Justin Salinger, in particular, made an impression.
* The inclusion of the Conviction pic on top serves a double purpose as it turns out, what with William Ash going to visit us with the production of You Can See The Hills at the Young Vic, October 14-18. Yes, yes, to visit us particularly, shut up, as we are his biggest fans. This is clearly going to be the theatrical event of the fall, given our weakness for Mancunian accents.