Saturday, 20 September 2008

CARYL CHURCHILL READINGS: Three More Sleepless Nights, The Royal Court, 19 Sep 2008

It's funny how a couple of months ago, when I had not open a Caryl Churchill script, I still wondered what all the fuss about her was about, and if she was really worth the hype. And now, the more I read and the more I see of her work, the more I come to understand why she's been so pivotal to British theatre in the last decades.

I wish I had seen the reading of Top Girls as well, one of her best known plays, but money is scarce and I had to choose between that one and this almost-short piece. In case of doubt I'll always pick the one with Lesley Sharp in it. Not only is she my favourite actress but I sincerely believe she is the best British actress nowadays so I knew I was in for a treat. Also, having been absolutely mesmerized by Tom Brooke in Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, I wanted to see more of him.

Three More Sleepless Nights follows three scenes between four characters that make up three different couples. The theme of communication, or in this case lack of it, is at the heart of the play. Which was written years before incommunication became the main subject of about 90% of modern theatre plays. But I am beginning to comprehend to what extent Caryl Churchill was and still is ahead of her time.

Churchill wrote Three More Sleepless Nights in 1980 but it is astounding how modern it sounds nowadays. The sound of it. What Churchill does with words very few authors can achieve. There's a very peculiar poetry to it. The first scene, between Sharp and Ron Cook, with overlapping dialogue which had to be timed to the fraction-of-a-second (and it was, despite this being a rehearsed reading), leaves the audience with the mouth open. But it's not just technical trick of it, it's the observation, the details, how well-drawn the characters are in just a few lines.

The reading was directed by debbie tucker green, which is another treat in itself, she is a great writer.

The cast was flawless. It's always an excercise in amazement, watching Lesley Sharp work. She is just one of those actors who are just a pleasure to watch, whatever she is doing, because she is so skillful and at the same time she makes it looks effortless. Ron Cook admirably stood his ground against her, he was pretty incredible too. And no, my first impression of Tom Brooke wasn't an illusion. This is one to look for. I loved the quietness and quirkiness he embedded into the character, and the very peculiar delivery he has, that voice. I am completely converted. He is the theatre discovery of the year so far.

As an aside note I should say I was very happy to take home with me Lesley Sharp's script of the play. She kindly gave it to this faithful fan. Aw. She also introduce me to Dominic Cooke and I shooke hands with the man I dream of working for someday. Amazing theatre experience.

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