NEWS FROM THE SEVENTH FLOOR
by Peter Straughan and Bridget O’ Connor Production created by Louise Ann Wilson and Wils Wilson
Wilson & Wilson Company and Palace Theatre To 31 May 2003
Mon-Fri 6pm&8pm Sat 6.15pm&8.15pm
Runs 1hr 20min No interval
TICKETS: 01923 235455
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 May 2003
When is a Department Store not a Department Store?With Watford’s Palace Theatre boarded up, the drama shifts to nearby department store Clements. As the story unfolds around the building it’s no surprise it’s co-scripted by the author of Newcastle-upon-Tyne success Noir.
From inner passions to blood on the stairs, events take over from initial fascination with the surroundings – we twist and climb from boiler-room to beds, accounts and a wood-raftered attic, and step out on the roof. Music sounds, faces on video hint at shopfloor histories. Songs and sirens wail down deserted corridors and round dark corners. In 80 minutes we experience as many years of lives that have passed their owners by.
Where the (no relation) Wilsons’ earlier work House and Mapping the Edge had us observing action that ignored us, here, fitting the retail setting, characters talk to us. Though there’s a growing sense these are confessional ghosts revisiting their own after-hours glimpses of the moon, compelled to speak regardless of whether there’s an audience.
A department store sells everything for the home; its displays create domestic illusions. It can embrace like a family. Debra Penny’s bright, flimsy Iris joins it in 1934, forever noting observations (20 a day) for the literary works she’ll never write.
Sidney Glock seems born into it, in 1918, with curved spine, on-the-bottle, promoted when fitter men are at war. Like Jimmy Wells, the golden boy loved by Iris, jealously hated by Sidney – an anguished Deka Walmsley – as the man he’ll never be, carelessly gaining the love Sidney’ll never have in this world.
Jimmy’s only seen as a golden glow accompanied by major chords, or a suavely-dressed tailor’s dummy – last seen distant on a rooftop, prevented from jumping by Sidney. Till, in a post-mortem postlude, we realise the narrative’s a sucker-punch.
This is a play about lives wasted in idealisation and self-destructive desire, played amid the materials of a contented life, which shopworkers forever supply to others. News from the Seventh Floor starts low-key then twists the screw ever tighter.
This is a six-floor shop. Seventh floor stands for heaven. Yet when, in tune with our feelgood times, it arrives, it turns out to be on the ground floor. A message to us all.
Sidney Glock: Deka Walmsley
Iris Gale: Debra Penny
Director: Wils Wilson
Designer: Louise Ann Wilson
Lighting: Ian Saunders
Sound/Composer: Olly Fox
Video: Rowan May