Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Recipes and genocide

Peeling

Graeae Theatre , Soho Theatre , April-06-02
It is quite a performance. Alpha, Beaty and Coral are three disabled actresses cast as the chorus in a production of The Trojan Women. They are the ticks on the equal opportunities monitoring form, "the right-on extras stuck at the back while the real actors continue with the real play". Three bickering women marooned behind a screen in ridiculous, huge, crippling frocks. Out of sight and out of mind.

But in Kaite O'Reilly's dense, dangerous play they seize centre-stage. As the story unfolds of the women of Troy who lose their children in the bloody conflicts of men, so in parallel run the stories of Alpha, Beaty and Coral and all the women of the world who weep for their lost children, victims of eugenics and genocide. The central images of the play are a laughing pair of children somersaulting down a hill into oblivion, and mothers who play the Pied Piper and lead their children on a merry dance to death, rather than seeing them slaughtered by an advancing army.

O'Reilly's drama, given a striking and cleverly judged production by Jenny Sealey for Graeae Theatre Company that integrates sign language and surtitles into its very fabric, occasionally seems to hark back to the campaigning feminist theatre of a couple of decades ago. But it is saved from being dated or over-worthy by the sheer quality of the writing, its angry wit ("Crippling up. The 21st century's answer to blacking up") and its mixture of the snug and the epic, recipes and genocide.

Peeling has all the deceptive simplicity and hopeful despair of a Samuel Beckett play. As in Beckett, the characters are tragic and comic, heartbreaking and ridiculous. As in Beckett the joke is ultimately on us.

This is a major piece of theatre from a company that is refusing to be relegated to the sidelines, and it is acted with honesty and terrific chutzpah by Caroline Parker as the uppity Alpha, Lisa Hammond as the beautiful, bitter Beaty and Sophie Partridge as fierce, fragile Coral.

Reviewed by: Lyn Gardner (The Guardian)

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