GODS ARE FALLEN AND ALL SAFETY GONE
by Selma Dimitrijevic.
Camden People’s Theatre 58-60 Hampstead Road NW1 2PY To 31 May.
TICKETS: 020 7419 4841.
then Northern Stage Barras Bridge NE1 7RH 4-6 June.
TICKETS: 0191 230 5151.
then Royal Exchange Theatre (Studio) St Ann’s Square M2 7DH 12-13 June 2015.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Runs 50min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden: 16, 17 May.
If you see nothing else, be sure to see this.
The title sounds epic, the content isn’t. Yet the loss of a parent can seem a toppling of universal proportions, leaving the dust and rubble of regret, guilt, emptiness and a new rhythm to life.
Here, it’s a mother and adult daughter, played by two men. Sean Campion and Scott Turnbull don’t try female impressions. In their own voices – from Ireland and the Tyne – they play through conversations, repeated with variations as talk between family members throughout a lifetime often is, dealing with little local matters and the arguments they ridiculously cause. A cup of tea, a visit to a relative become last straws for slow-built frustrations.
The clarity of youth can be amused or angered by the indecisions of an older, probably less widely educated generation. Or, the anxieties of age find the demands of the young difficult. Unspoken tracks of thought can erupt in words that seem inconsistent to external ears. What brings amused understanding one time round might cause fury another.
There tends to be a lot of movement in the first half. The second is more still, and quiet, the reason becoming clear as the talk acquires an elegiac tone, delving beneath previous embarrassment.
As in ancient and eastern theatre traditions, male actors give the female characters a universal quality, though their individuality is also evident. As a kind of earth to the performances, each performance invites a mother and daughter from the community to sit on stage, watching, reacting, putting a jigsaw together if they wish, as the actors construct lives across the stage.
As director, Selma Dimitrijevic further simplifies her own, already stripped-back script, removing the few set items suggested, cutting an offstage voice. This demands utter discipline in the writing – where every bare word has to hold-up the imagined world. Every word here does.
To create dramatic truth and resonate with the audience, there is no room for effect or show. There is none here; through their commitment, developed over time, both actors open-up a deep humanity with a direct simplicity rarely found outside the empty space of the great director Peter Brook.
Mother: Sean Campion.
Daughter: Scott Turnbull.
Director: Selma Dimitrijevic.
Designer: Oliver Townsend.