“It’s a blip when you’re 25, after 55 it’s a shambles”
Lesley Bruce’s An Interlude of Men is blessed with a brilliant pair of performances, Deborah Findlay and Barbara Flynn play Bren and Hilly whose lifelong friendship is thoroughly explored when Bren comes to stay and help as Hilly’s broken her wrist. They revisit girlhood memories and lament the time they drifted apart a little due to each being married and in the cosy warmth of nostalgia, they start to plan for a future together reclaiming that lost time. Bruce cleverly structures the rhythm of the play around the heady emotion of their initial reunion and the subsequent cooling off period and though it ends on a rather plaintive note, it sings with hard-won authenticity.
Riffing off of Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath, Edson Burton’s De Wife of Bristol is a wryly amusing take on the classic tale of one of the more vibrant characters in The Canterbury Tales and transplanted to the modern day, it gains real currency in its new location in the Afro-Caribbean community. Lorna Gayle’s Clarissa da Costa is a retired woman who has worked her way through a number of husbands and is now dispensing marital advice to recently arrived Jamaican housekeeper Shanti, a delicately moving Susan Wokoma. Shanti has her own tale to tell as well and together, they edge towards a way into the future. Jude Akuwidike, Cyril Nri and Alex Lanipekun are fun as the various men but make no mistake, this is a woman’s world.
Last up is Howard Barker’s In the Depths of Dead Love, a surprisingly entertaining drama about an exiled Chinese poet Chin who runs a suicide business with his bottomless well which he charges people to throw themselves into. When the striking Hasi arrives but can’t quite take that final step, a strange connection starts to build between the pair which brought vividly to life by Barker’s inimitable style. Richard E Grant and Francesca Annis are cracking as Chin and Hasi, tracing their contrasting emotional journeys beautifully and underscored with some lovely music from Errollyn Wallen performed by Joseph Spooner. Jane Bertish’s spiky housekeeper adds a clever humourous edge and it makes for an enthralling listen.