Sunday 04th December

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The Jack Studio Theatre: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

| Hidden London, Theatre | 07/10/2013

Katherine Rodden as Ruth
Katherine Rodden as Ruth. Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge/Photographise

Showing until October 19, 2013


I’m waiting to be disappointed by Brockley Jack but it hasn’t happened. Maybe with the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Paul Zindel, and directed by Amy Gunn who previously steered the astonishing ‘Measure for Measure’ you can’t go wrong – and here we have yet another solid gold production. For anyone who has seen and been touched by Alvin Sargent’s screenplay, Zindel’s original stage play is as intriguing as a reflection in a two-way mirror. It commences pacier and racier, and the daughters enjoy fleshier roles; most ably accommodated by Katherine Rodden as Ruth. I now appreciate both scripts, and it’s tricky to imagine one without the other.

Sophie Doherty as the mother offers a well-crafted and confident performance: perfectly comfortable in the most imperfect and uncomfortable character; her near-evil streak soon exposed via the catalyst of her elderly lodger (an unobtrusive straight guy by Clare Almond). Like the beauty she misses, William Ingham’s honeyed changes of light seem visceral, bled through a lovingly layered set by Gina Rose Lee (my one criticism seeing a suddenly able-bodied Nannie in silhouette). This is another exceptional ensemble at The Jack, with a lynch-pin performance from Evelyn Campbell delivering an unforgettable monologue in Act Two; soul-piercing in contrast with Grace Lyons Hudson’s gleamingly schoolgirlish interjection.

Sophie Doherty as Beatrice (the mother). Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge/Photographise

Sophie Doherty as Beatrice (the mother). Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge/Photographise

Unlike most parents this mother doesn’t bother ‘living through her kids’ instead drowning them in her own failures. There emerges ephemeral evidence of love but she doesn’t know how to love. The girls lavish attention on their pet rabbit because their captor tortures them. Hitchcock would have had a field-day; it’s all so horribly inverted, the elder sister reinterpreting the maternal role that she is denied. Like Willy Loman, the mother has ‘all the wrong dreams’ kidding herself that “If you can’t afford to look expensive then people will like you for trying to look nice…”

Is this voyeurism, social commentary or both? How does it reflect on ourselves – that we all share the same competitive drives? Or that we allow it to happen? Zindel brushes the house-dust with laughter but it leaves us choking. The tearing-down of newspaper from the grimy window, the ghastly pretence of another false beginning, the veil of suburban voile, is especially hard to take and I am a loss to explain.


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