Left – Marta Kaczmarek, Margaret Mills, Julie Forsyth. Cover – Margaret Mills, Marta Kaczmarek, Caroline Lee and Julie Forsyth. Photos – Jodie-Hutchinson.
At 80, Caryl Churchill remains one of Britain’s most awarded female writers. Heralded for her sharply observed social commentary and imaginative theatrical experimentation, Churchill has been prolific since her first work for stage premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1972.
Caryl Churchill has long been lauded for theatrical disruption and so it feels apt therefore that Escaped Alone receives its Australian premier thanks to the ever innovative and boundary pushing Red Stitch Actors Theatre.
A suburban backyard of sun and comfortable chairs eavesdrops on lives without offering a discernible time between subject shift. Conversations and confessions build and evoke concepts and imagery beyond the everyday and periodic episodes of blinding illumination give way to narration of ‘other world’ travails bubbling literally below the surface.
As one has come to expect from Red Stitch, the calibre of performance here is exceptional with Julie Forsyth, Marta Kaczmarek, Caroline Lee and Margaret Mills collaborating in a challenging, rapid word exercise requiring intense and focussed listening to avoid the missing or dropping of an imperative cue.
For such a short work, there is extraordinary scale. This is rich, colourful, funny language fused with themes of enormity. With so much to take on, credit is due for the entire creative team in bringing forth meaning. Director Jenny Kemp clearly had strong vision for the production, and she’s been amply supported by some very fine actors, working upon an exceedingly clever split-level set by Dan Barber, comprehensively lit by lighting designer Rachel Burke.
I am fortunate to have seen previous works by Caryl Churchill and so my expectation of Escaped Alone was that I would leave the theatre perplexed but none the less in ore of the delightfully clever and imaginatively surreal.
Escaped Alone is a tough to describe mosaic of relatively unrelated moments – snippets of seemingly ordinary conversation loaded into a 55-minute barrel transubstantiating the almost mundane into troubling but rewarding complexity for us to decipher and process.
Go for the ride and for the post conversation it will undoubtedly generate.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre presents
by Caryl Churchill
Director Jenny Kemp
Venue: Red Stitch | Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East VIC
Dates: 2 June – 30 June 2019