by Elizabeth Kuti.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 28 September 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 September.
Fine goings-on in Suffolk.
Some playwrights don’t start fashions or come to prominence with particular companies or specific directors. But their plays are always fresh, well-crafted, and breathe the sense of an instinctive writer, making space for their actors.
Such is Elizabeth Kuti, English born, part-Hungarian and first performed in Ireland. Kuti is a writer who treats her characters, and audiences, with respect. There is a design but no cheap tricks. And you never know where she’ll take you next.
In this case to Suffolk, where her three characters live but don’t meet. They are separated in origin, from the local to Australian, in occupation – peasant woman, teacher, scientist – and time. Mab speaks from 1173, Ben from 1973 and Mog from 2003. So, though their lives never realistically cross, here is, in names and dates, a threesome.
Their stories intertwine not only in the telling but in developing connections, built around a local legend. Robert Price’s production has no credit for designer – there is virtually no set. And that’s apt, for what matters here is sound. From whatever century, the fates of these three in Orford are linked to mysterious, piercing or screaming sounds.
Such sounds draw them into a local legend about a wild man from the sea, which has resonances with each of their lives and combines the mystical Suffolk with the county of nuclear power. Each life moves towards death; one of the few visual moments is when a light goes out over a character at the point of death.
But there’s salvation for another in a moment of despair, something suggesting a connection at a level above daily reality.
It’s a measure of Kuti’s precise, coherent narratives that the stories remain focused on human experience rather than becoming tales of the supernatural. A tribute, too, to Price’s sympathetic direction and the three actors that with minimal theatrical trappings they make these disparate characters clear and their histories seem significant. Mab’s medieval peasant language is the most difficult to handle, and Jessica Carroll does a fine job, as do Brett Brown playing the scientist and Eva Traynor as troubled teacher Mog.
Mab: Jessica Carroll.
Ben: Brett Brown.
Mog: Eva Traynor.
Director: Robert Price.
Lighting: Matt Levenhall.
Costume: Felicity Gray.
Assistant director: Hannah Jones.