by James Rushbrooke.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 21 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 November.
An ‘issue’ play certainly, but equally a very human drama.
Thank goodness Ms Worthington-Cox did put her daughter on the stage. Not much older than her character Jessie, Eleanor Worthington-Cox gives a magnetic performance as the last young psychopath in the country, a Britain projected some years into the future.
To all intents it’s the present, but with new medical abilities and consequent ethical problems. Medical conditions can be predicted and dealt with before birth. But humanity needs to keep up. For Charlie, her new doctor, Jessie is a case, her artistic genius to be disabled by drugs that will paralyse her from the neck down, leaving her brain the object of medical investigations.
Charlie is a systems man, a player by the rules, demanding others do their jobs without argument. At home, he pushes his wife to a legally enforceable abortion when her intended child is found to carry a defective gene.
His insistence on systems is clear as he supersedes Diana Kent’s more humane doctor; his hand and voice mannerisms, used to try and keep things good-humoured, should fool no-one.
Behind such surface attempts at relating to colleagues and his wife, he’s mindful of career and authority. Edward Harrison shows the ultimately ruthless doctor’s appearances of thinking about others as something approaching a psychopathic condition.
Behind him are unseen authorities, setting the societal mood that took 2-year old Jessie and isolated her in a room for a decade as a specimen for examination.
Lying behind all is fear; the public must be protected. And Jessie has her dangerous moments, despite sweetly accepting her situation. Usually, these days, she stops short of violence in her protected environment.
One question author James Rushbrooke usefully suggests in Katie Hewitt’s skilful production, is how much her attempts to please and placate are behaviour learned as achieving desired responses, how much they link to actual emotion.
Human feeling might exist for Jessie with her Key-worker Tom, a forceful, watchful and considerate presence, in whom Brian Doherty shows strength and the ease long practice provides.
In the play’s final, forceful ambiguity, their closeness is apparent, with the simultaneous question, who might be betraying whom.
Jessie: Eleanor Worthington-Cox.
Tom: Brian Doherty.
Caroline: Diana Kent.
Charlie: Edward Harrison.
Rachel: Susan Stanley.
Director: Kate Hewitt.
Designer: Lily Arnold.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Richard Hammarton.
Fight director: Tom Klotz.
Dramaturg: George Turvey.
Associate lighting: Matt Leventhall.
Associate sound: Daffyd Gough.