Last Updated on June 29, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Four by Caryl Churchill
Greenwich Theatre is offering audiences a rare opportunity to see four intriguing short plays by Caryl Churchill, all directed and performed with great precision and wit. Bad Days and Odd Nights runs until 23rd July
All four plays were written between 1971 and 1980 and still make perfect sense in 2021 in the hands of director James Haddrell. Sexual politics, dystopia, self-doubt, menace, oversharing and secrets all crop up in these thought-provoking pieces as the evening unfolds. The talented cast, featuring Paul McGann, Kerrie Taylor, Verna Vyas, Bonnie Baddoo, Dan Gaisford and Gracy Goldman, share duties across the plays, often admirably unrecognisable from one play to the next.
The evening opens with the atmosphere and amusing Seagulls, a play written in 1978 but not performed in a full production until 2013. On the surface, this is the story of an ordinary housewife, convincingly played by Taylor, who panics at the thought of losing her telekinetic powers and therefore her unexpected fame. Underneath it is an allegory about fear of losing the ability to write, a subject very personal to Churchill.
Three More Sleepless Nights (1980) takes in three very different bedrooms scenes. These veer from an enthralling riff on marital discord, with McGann and Goldman excelling as a couple who row over each other, into quieter, more introspective territory.
Another bed-bound piece, Abortive sees a couple attempt to rebuild their marriage after a series of terrible events. This is a tense exploration of marital politics and trust or lack thereof. It was originally a radio play broadcast on Radio 3 in 1971 and this is the first time it has been performed on stage.
It is difficult to fathom that the weirdly prescient Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen was written as long ago as 1971. Pollution has rendered the world in respiratory distress, gasping for oxygen, violent fanatics terrorise London, breeding between humans is banned without a licence and tower blocks burn in the distance.
Whether she is dissecting relationships in turmoil or imagining dystopian futures, Caryl Churchill always surprises and leaves audiences with plenty to think about. And this production of these four fascinating little plays brings her words and ideas into sharp relief.