THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW DRESS
by Craig Higginson.
Theatre 503 above The Latchmere Pub 503 Battersea Park Road SW11 3BW To 14 April 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7978 7040.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 March.
Eloquent language of love with complicated grammar.
No doubt she was a phantom of delight when Pierre first glimpsed Celia in the Luxembourg Gardens. By the end he’s come, with eye not serene, to understand the very pulse of the machine. For what makes heavenly Celia tick is darker than the yellow dress she wore in that first vision, and which he doesn’t recognise when she finally dons it again.
Writer Craig Higginson uses language lessons to bring them regularly together while keeping them apart in the teacher/learner relationship. Until that becomes as irregular as many of the verbs. To gently anonymous piano music, letters float around the wall in Alex Twiselton’s video images, gradually settling into French then English grammatical terms, reflecting the uncertainties of human actions and intentions.
A moment jolts the relationship, an intrusion – fittingly enough, into Celia’s books – by Pierre, reversing the gradual learning of each other’s grammar and affections. It leads to the play’s loudest, weakest, section, where sex and race become platforms for accusation. Maybe Higginson intends the cross-accusations (and cross accusations) as covers for deeper uncertainties, but they are thin contrasted with the secrets and lies of his ambiguities elsewhere.
Fortunately, things recover before an end which damages rather than destroys the characters. Tim Roseman’s production (developed from its first showing last autumn in Salisbury Playhouse’s Salberg Studio) sensitively creates uncertainties and ambiguities through excellent performances from Fiona Button, at first in control in a series of elegant clothes, but with signs from the start of nervousness and confusion unprovoked by Pierre, moving through a curled-up physical withdrawal to exhausted vulnerability.
And from Clifford Samuel, whose Pierre has an inquisitiveness and invention that uses truth to tell lies, while often having to catch up with his teacher in subtle use of the language of relationships.
James Perkins’ set looks out on Paris, where neither belongs, and which neither trusts, as a city of metal focused on the Eiffel Tower This isn’t the first fine two-hander at 503. But script and performances make it the best since runaway success The Mountaintop, and deserving to follow that play to a further life.
Celia: Fiona Button.
Pierre: Clifford Samuel.
Director: Tim Roseman.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound/Video: Alex Twiselton.
Voice/Dialect coach: Mary Howland.
Assistant director: Bethany Pitts.