THE WAGES OF SIN
LOOKING AFTER BUSINESS and NIBBLING AWAY, Martin Drury; DOUBLE EXPOSURE, Gareth Owen
Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham till 02 12 12
Review: Alexander Ray, 01 12 12
Intriguing new plays take a living look at hidden histories.
THE WAGES OF SIN is a trio of new plays set around the turn of the 20th Century, each dealing with sex and sexuality in some form or another. They make and intriguing mix.
The evening starts with the shortest – LOOKING AFTER BUSINESS. Victorian Tench takes refuge in a pub from his wife and (ailing?) daughter. It would appear he’s been having an affair with the barmaid / landlady; but she’s in league with Tench’s maid, Maisie . . . It’s an interesting enough little play and is a good hors d’oeuvre for the evening; specially as it’s played out in the bar (nice decision.)
The longest of the plays (constituting the second half) is DOULBE EXPOSURE. This has a most interesting background of an incestuous relationship between a member of the aristocracy and his sister. While a riot against the ruling classes takes place beyond the acting space, the loving couple carry out a suicide pact, photographed by Pennypiece, a photographer. A dotty Scots maid completes the quartet.
This is a promising beginning, but writer Gareth Owen loses sight of the most interesting elements in favour of a pseudo-absurdist comedy. While it’s always entertaining, it’s difficult for us to know quite how to relate to the play and for the actors to know, quite, how to focus it.
NIBBLING AWAY (Martin Drury) is the most satisfying and unusual of the pieces. Lizzie (a cross-dressed actress) awaits the return of her lover Elinor, while her present younger lover (Fanny) has to pretend to be her maid. Joanne Billingham (Lizzie) and Therese Collins (Elinor) sustain the bulk of this play well, though the piece would benefit from a greater focus on the relationships between the two main women and less of a focus on the artifice. The strength of the play is that it goes beneath the artifice we anticipate from the period (1890s) and explores an aspect of real life. If the play is to be developed the class structure could be mined to add greatly to the dramatic dialectic of the play. A short play in which the air crackles with Victorian class, status, sexuality and women’s politics.
Directed by: Graeme Braidwood