UEA Theatre Productions presents a celebration of Caryl Churchill. Under the season title LOVE TRIANGLES, third year drama students will present two of her plays, Love and Information and Blue Heart, running on alternate days.
This review is for Blue Heart which comprises two short plays Heart’s Desire and Blue Kettle – either side of the interval.
Heart’s Desire features a family sitting at home waiting for their daughter to return from Australia, and we view them in the house waiting and chatting. Although I’ve just written a simple sentence where everyone can imagine this simple scenario, however it’s really not so simple therefore you are kept alert as to what happens. Churchill didn’t write simple plays, she was inventive and liked to explore boundaries.
It’s the same scene played over and over and over again, but not necessarily the whole scene each time and there were slight variations in the details with each run through, which added to the depth of the story. A couple of times the scene was done at speed, or with limited words. The audience were engaged with this intricate piece and were easily able to keep track of the main story even when it included two gunmen, a government official, a dead body, a hoard of small children and a ten-feet-tall bird!
In the second play Blue Kettle, Churchill’s use of non-naturalistic techniques is certainly coming into form and it feeds into the play subtly at the start. The premise of the story is a con-man convinces several elderly women that he is their long-lost son. As the play moves along, the words ‘blue’ and ‘kettle’ are used to replace random words – you don’t notice it at first then you wonder if you misheard. As the frequency of the replacement words intensifies you can still understand what’s going on – it’s an interesting concept as we are still following the play as we have the visuals and the emotions of the characters as the actors are still acting. It gets to the end of the play where every word is replaced and not even ‘blue’ and ‘kettle’ are used in full…but the actors are still acting.
These Churchill’s plays are not about the content it seems, it’s more about how the words are used – of course this sounds daft to say about a play, however I’ve never seen a play where the words are not in the right order and used so differently – an interesting concept and an altered view on things and I loved how it made me think.
This performance by UEA added another level of creativity to these unusual plays. Each of the main characters were played by three actors and they were all on stage at the same time. Think three groups of actors performing the play in each third of the stage. To help the audience out, the same character in each group were in the same colour i.e. all the actors playing ‘Brian’ were in red. Yes, it did help.
The creative way of splitting up the scripts across the three groups of actors was brilliant to be honest. It’s a casting device by the Director to include all the students. However, it wasn’t split in a cold sharp way, it flowed across the groups and the interaction between all of them was warm and engaging. As the plays were slightly thought provokingly unusual, this method only added to the overall uniqueness of the evening.
The acting was at a high standard and considering the complexity of the scripts and the method of performance – the actors did an amazing job of keeping everything flowing. Well done to everyone involved for thinking outside the box.
UEA Theatre Productions offer professionally directed, accessible, high quality theatre, with high production values at affordable ticket prices.
Photo Credit: Ruby Belassie
This review first appeared on GrapevineLIVE