SLIDING WITH SUZANNE
by Judy Upton
Out of Joint Theatre Company, Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs to 22 September 2001 then tour
Runs 2 hrs 10 mins One interval
TICKETS 020 7565 5000 (Royal Court performances only)
Review Timothy Ramsden 4 September
Intense scenes of emotional volatility don’t quite add up.
You come out of bad musicals humming the set. You could come out of this play eating it. One setting, anyway, a late night convenience store where Monica Dolan’s 35 year old misfit Suzanne erupts on her way home to Brighton from a non-existence in London. By the end most of its edible stock lies across the floor.This is pretty much what happens to enamoured 17 year old store assistant Josh (Danny Worters), who’s already been given a bloody nose and a dead hedgehog by Suzanne’s teenage foster son Luka (Bryan Dick).
But it’s not all violence. Suzanne and the three younger characters – there’s Sophie (Loo Brearley), Josh’s 14 year old sister – start up a sexual La Ronde too. In contrast, for Suzanne’s mother (June Watson) the announcement she’s going on holiday with the map-collecting coach driver from next door (Roger Frost) is momentous enough.
Upton is tough, yet at her best when showing sympathy to her characters. None is a no-hoper. Suzanne has A-levels but no degree and is too bright for the only jobs she can get. Even Luka only killed the hedgehog to end its agony after a hit and run squashing.
But there’s something about Suzanne. Both her brothers are doing nicely, university or not. And as Dolan expertly flicks from foul-mouthed aggression to true tenderness she shows us someone whose problems lie in psychology more than sociology.
The clean precision of Max Stafford-Clark’s finely acted production shows the delicate balance Upton achieves in most scenes but which doesn’t quite hold overall. Suzanne’s 11th hour self-analysis of being on a slide contrasts the happy dance end where ‘alone facing the future’ she looks skyward in a way melodramatists once thought inspirational. It’s over-easy way as a resolution for the hurtling trauma of Suzanne’s life.
Out of Joint tour Sliding with Suzanne to Plymouth, Liverpool, Coventry, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Edinburgh, Colchester and Madrid: 25 September-17 November.
Josh: Danny Worters
Luka: Bryan Dick
Theresa: June Watson
Suzanne: Monica Dolan
Ned: Roger Frost
Sophie: Loo Brealey
Director: Max Stafford-Clark
Designer: Julian McGowan
Lighting: Johanna Town
Sound: Paul Arditti