Escaped Alone - Review

The Royal Court’s visually striking production of Caryl Churchill’s play at Bristol Old Vic begins with four women in a back garden, chatting about their lives over a period of afternoons. This is interweaved with a vision of a world destroyed. Humans still behave in recognisable (and often idiotic) ways but the planet is no longer functioning. In the future world, a virus spreads, rapidly wiping out life.

Churchill’s dialogue - the interruptions, digressions and easy way of talking - reflects the warmth and closeness of the friends - these are women who know each other well. However there are tensions simmering beneath. Each character has a soliloquy so we are invited to see the world from her perspective. Each character has something distinctive - an obsessive fear or a secret to reveal. The actors are superb in their roles: Linda Bassett as Mrs Jarrett, Deborah Findlay as Sally, Kika Markham as Lena and June Watson as Vi. They skilfully create the intimacy of close friends yet subtly portray a dark undercurrent of mistrust.

The staging is hyperreal: the garden, brightly lit to represent an archetypal summer’s day, is drenched in colour. The greenery is lush and fertile, the sky an azure blue. These colours make the production surreally filmic. The narrative flash forwards are indicated with a pitch black, framed with red. These hellish colours contrast with the natural greens and blues of the garden scene, suggesting the planet is doomed. The sounds are subtly evocative of suburban gardens: children laughing; neighbours’ voices and birdsong. However even in this semi-detached idyll lurks the threat of pollution - the hum of cars is audible.

Escaped Alone is a satire on the internet age. In a world where kittens become celebrities, people obsess with selfies and stare into screens, oblivious to the suffering of others. The women in the garden chatter, oblivious to the impending catastrophe. Ignorance, like the virus, is shown to be a force for destruction.

Darkly humorous, Escaped Alone is startling, puzzling and compelling.

(c) Samantha Coughlan March 2017

Escaped Alone
50 minutes (no interval)
Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Bristol Old Vic

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