In addition to mask-wearing, the social distancing measures at Greenwich Theatre had every other row empty and at least one seat between bubbles. The result was surprisingly good, especially for watching this set of plays. Rather than everyone bunched up in the middle, we were all in our own little space, set apart from the rest of the crowd; a bit like the characters we were soon to see.
Seagulls presents us with Valerie (Kerrie Taylor) about to demonstrate her telekinesis in public and feeling a bit nervous. She has a visit from obsessive fan Cliff (Bonnie Baddoo), who is wonderfully annoying and persists in asking awkward questions, even coming back for a second bite after she has been asked to leave. Valerie does not manage to move anything in the demo. Apparently, this piece was quite personal to Churchill who feared the loss of her writing ability and, despite being from 1978, it could easily have been written about any number of more recent cases of press and social media intrusion.
Three More Sleepless Nights takes place in the bedrooms of a trio of couples. First, we witness Margaret (Gracy Goldman) and a drunk Frank (Paul McGann) having a belter of an argument. There is a constant stream of invective from both characters, delivered with depth of feeling and perfect timing. The occasional silences accentuate the outbursts that follow and even when talking over each other we still know what they are saying. Next, to a completely contrasting second duo, Pete (Dan Gaisford) and Dawn (Verna Vyas), which starts with a series of grunts and sighs. Dawn is clearly not in the best of mental health but unfortunately Pete does not know how to deal with it and so launches into amusing descriptions of various film plots. The third part sees a more relaxed Margaret and Pete who are now together, having split with their previous partners. But those same insecurities rear their ugly heads.
Abortive features another bedroom, this time with Colin (Paul McGann) and Roz (Kerrie Taylor), who are working through dealing with a recent traumatic incident which involves their strange relationship with the mysterious Billy. The direction of this one meant that occasionally the characters (Roz in particular) were facing away from the audience, making it difficult to hear the dialogue.
The intriguing title Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen comes from the character Vivian, excellently portrayed by Verna Vyas. Vivian is with her ‘friend’ Mick (Dan Gaisford), trapped in a tiny flat in ‘The Londons’. They are expecting a visit from Mick’s rich and successful daughter Claudia (Bonnie Baddoo) in the hope that she will deliver an escape. This play’s disturbing references to pollution, tower blocks on fire, extremism and disappearing species seem strikingly current, despite being written over 40 years ago.
The rusty, twisted roller-coaster rails arching over the stage against a jet black backdrop looks a bit like the skeletal spine of some long dead creature; an appropriate setting for plays dealing with the demise of marriages, and where death is mentioned quite a lot. It also serves to draw you in to the performance space – important for such intimate settings which could easily get lost in anything bigger than the smallest theatres. Don’t let the three hours running time put you off – it just flew by. This excellent cast of six, supported by first rate direction, lighting, set, etc., delivered a really enjoyable evening.
Written by: Caryl Churchilll
Directed by: James Hadrell
Produced by: Simon Francis
Set Design by: Cleo Pettitt
Bad Days and Odd Nights is playing until 10 July. Further information and booking via the below link.