Lucy Kirkwood returns to the National Theatre with The Welkin, starring a brilliant ensemble led by Maxine Peake
“Nobody blames God when there’s a woman can be blamed instead”
There are moments in Lucy Kirkwood’s new play The Welkin that are just outstanding. The opening tableau of silhouetted women engaged in housework is one for the ages, the early montage of women being empanelled onto a jury is as compelling a piece of social history as has ever been committed to the stage as well as looking stunning, and the final scene is equally full of iconic imagery (that veil, that walk, that ribbon, that realisation!).
Set on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders in 1759, the play focuses on a quirk of English justice at the time. A child has died and Sally Poppy has been sentenced for the crime (by men) but as she is claiming to be pregnant – something which if true, would commute her sentence from death to transportation – a “jury of matrons” must decide if she is telling the truth. Thus 12 local woman are summoned and locked in a room to determine her fate. Continue reading “Review: The Welkin, National Theatre”
“Our country doesn’t exist any more”
Despite the riches on offer on the multitude of stages across London, contemporary European theatre is something that is all too rarely seen here. But theatres like East London’s Arcola and companies like Borealis (who mounted 8 Women at the Southwark Playhouse last year) are trying to redress that balance and have most definitely come up trumps with this excoriating piece of drama. Written by Finnish-Estonian Sofi Oksanen and latterly adapted into a hugely successful novel, Purge has an epic scope – weaving together the stories of two women, Aliide and Zara, with the troubled history of post-WWII Estonia and the struggles and compromises made by a people living under occupation.
It is rarely easy viewing, violence is presented matter-of-factly and none of these unpalatable truths are sugar-coated. Zara is a prostitute who has murdered her pimp and is on the run from gangsters, the much older Aliide is living in seclusion out in rural Estonia trying to keep the past at bay and reluctantly offers the younger woman sanctuary. And as they gingerly step around each other and slowly reveal their hidden stories – the focus being on Aliide’s extraordinary history – the ramifications of their decisions become clearer as the realisation of a strange connection comes hand in hand with a real danger knocking at the door. Continue reading “Review: Purge, Arcola Theatre”