MY GIRL 2
by Barrie Keeffe.
Old Red Lion Theatre 418 St John Street EC1V 4NJ To 12 July 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm Sun 2pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7837 7816.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 July.
Caught uneasily between two ages.
We don’t expect to see non-Black actors play Othello these days. Yet we still accept plays where female characters are created by male writers. Which is inevitable, but does lead to unconvincing situations in modern drama.
There have been recent online comments about the tendency to provide very mature male characters with attractive young women lovers. That doesn’t happen here, but in updating his 1989 story of a young couple on the breadline in right-wing England (Thatcher then, Coalition now) Barrie Keeffe depicts a woman whose desperation leads her to sexually humiliating offers to regain some love and understanding from a husband distracted by his caseload as a social worker and ground-down with debts as an individual.
It also leads to a late melodramatic action requiring more subtle preparation in both writing and direction to justify itself without the taint of theatrical sensationalism.
Once it would not have been noticed. In other words, this update is still mentally stuck in its earlier era. Life, society and playwriting have moved on and the problem is that a few topical references – Cameron, student loans – don’t integrate the story of love under trial into modern society or the mental landscape of people born only a few years before Keeffe’s first version hit the stage.
Both actors chart their relationship’s rough path with skill. Alexander Neal’s Sam gradually reveals the moral consciousness and human concern beneath physical and mental weariness while Emily Plumtree follows Anita’s descent during pregnancy towards desperation, then to final recovery.
Despite bills and problem clients Sam battles to stay in London; but now with two children Anita is finally well-placed to take the easy road through the countryside. It is, again, an argument it would be intriguing to see explored by a woman dramatist, as Sam alludes to Cyril Connolly’s 1938 nostrum in Enemies of Promise that, "There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall."
The enemy here, though, is that 1989’s alluring suggestion of similarities with today hides sizeable differences, which Keeffe seems too attached to his original to fully explore.
Sam: Alexander Neal.
Anita: Emily Plumtree.
Director: Paul Tomlinson.
Designer: Jacqueline Gunn.
Lighting: Yana Demo.
Sound: Tom Lee.
Movement: Vanessa Ewan.