Escaped Alone at the Jerwood Theatre DownstairsCultureTheatre
Caryl Churchill remains nothing short of unpredictable, continuing to produce new and intriguing work at the age of 77. Famed for her non-naturalistic techniques and surreal narratives, she tackles serious topics like sex, politics, and disease with utter precision and tact. Escaped Alone is no exception.
Only 50 minutes in length, Escaped Alone shows four women, all of a certain age, leisurely chatting in a suburban garden. Arranged in the boxy set are a fence, a shed, and four lawn chairs seating the cast in comfortable clothes. As they converse and reminisce about grandchildren, old money, new technology and the past, atmospheric cars and motorbikes can be heard travelling adjacent to the garden. There is something intimate and peculiar about the setting, and something familiar and foreign about the conversation.
After intermittent chatter, the incomparable Linda Basset appears separately from the women, encased in glowing squares around the stage that flicker like light filaments. Churchill’s repertoire proves she does not waste words: she uses them with purpose. Her words appear both natural and alien. Escaped Alone is certainly one of her more amusing, lighter pieces, and is probably more absurd than it’s supposed to be, with talk of chemical spills and famine.
Director James Macdonald employed similar techniques as Churchill’s Love and Information in 2012. This 50-minute piece was a sensory experience – you could close your eyes and indulge in scenic sounds and nonsensical monologues, or you could be hypnotised by the glowing void that was Miriam Buether’s set. It was difficult to decide whether it was distracting or gripping.
Linda Basset, with her insightful yet ludicrous soliloquys, is complemented by the individual performances of Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham and June Watson. Caryl Churchill’s latest play leaves the audience feeling hypnotised and oddly fine with it.
Escaped Alone is on at the Royal Court Theatre from 21st January until 12th March 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Escaped Alone here: