BEATING HEART CADAVER
by Colleen Murphy.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 18 April 2011.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 April.
A fine playwright, sympathetic production and outstanding central performance.
How many decisions did it take to put this production in front of audiences? Who decided to mount the play (of necessity, on the set of a mini-musical)? How was the director of Anacardia Productions production chosen? How were the actors cast? And that’s all before rehearsals start.
With so many chances for mistakes, it’s amazing anything halfway decent emerges. At the least, Anna Morrissey’s cast play well enough. And at their centre’s a scorching picture of bereavement among two brothers and a wife sharing the impact of a child’s death.
The second of Canadian Colleen Murphy’s plays at the Finborough this spring shows her dramatic instinct. Inanimate objects mark-out human feelings. Dialogue incorporates the reflective, poetic, and direct, always leaving space for actors to build and inhabit characters uncluttered by excess verbiage. In this style there’s no hiding behind inconsequential conversation, while the characters need to be more than thematic mouthpieces.
Placing the details that reveal more about the road accident in which Leona and Danny’s 8-year old daughter died is simple technical skill. The true dramatist emerges in making the order and timing of each revelation seem natural for the characters’ psychological development and current state, and for the time that’s passed, both in performance and the period covered by the action.
It’s here Murphy shows her understanding of the way grief, guilt and bitterness swing people’s behaviour. Danny also has his own injuries to contend with. Many once-firm marriages have broken under such pressures, and it’s a mark of the writer’s dramatic maturity that she takes no easy options with her characters’ lives.
This also allows her to introduce a different level with Lola, who makes a living out of her bereavement, stultifying feeling in a pre-prepared presentation, with kitsch suitcase-shrine. Nothing is sacred, not even a mother’s grief. Except a dramatist’s integrity, such as contrasts Lola eruptions alongside Jennifer Lee Jellicorse’s Leona, true to the intensity of conflicting emotions, both body and spirit sliding chaotically at times, before finally reassembling in a bright light expressing acceptance of the final secret, in a resolution devoid of glibness.
Leona: Jennifer Lee Jellicorse.
Min: Maggie McCourt.
Lola: Mary Roscoe.
Devlin: Richard Atwill.
Danny: Tim Beckmann.
Director: Anna Morrissey.
Designer: Penelope Watson.
Lighting: Dan Jones.
Sound: Ed Lewis.
Movement: Lucy Cullingford.