a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London (****)

© Stephen Cummiskey, Gershwyn Eustache Jrn (B), Lashana Lynch (A)

© Stephen Cummiskey, Gershwyn Eustache Jrn (B), Lashana Lynch (A)

Seeing Caryl Churchill in the audience this week for debbie tucker green’s latest is to be reminded of the enormous influence and legacy Churchill has bequeathed, is bequeathing to British theatre.

Perhaps more than anyone else of her generation, tucker green feels like the immediate inheritor of the Churchillian mantle when it comes to theatrical form, language, vision and eloquence. What you take away from her enigmatically teasingly entitled `a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun) – could this be love we’re talking about?! – is not so much what tucker green is saying as the way she is saying it.

First we’re ushered into what at first sight appears to be a variation on a classroom. We sit, like pupils, upright, on white stools. A slim acting platform is surrounded on three sides by greenish-grey walls on which the actors from time to time scrawl a line, a circle. Hieroglyphics of a tenuous nature, only after watching for an hour or so, do you come to realise those scrawled lines and circles could, possibly, resemble the outlines of house, a floor plan. Or maybe the head-rest of a bed. Then again, concentric, overlapping circles, an ovum and sperm co-mingling.

© Stephen Cummiskey, Gary Beadle (Man)

© Stephen Cummiskey, Gary Beadle (Man)

As always with tucker green – as with Churchill – there are multiple ways of seeing, interpreting. But love is somewhere enshrined. And family. So too, in large letters, the non-communication that co-exists amongst the loving of another. The inability to adequately express looms large in tucker green’s work, and it is monumental here.

A & B clearly love each other. But words fail constantly, fall away, uncompleted on a roller-coaster ride of changing, elliptical encounters covering love, disappointment, devotion, animosity and death.

© Stephen Cummiskey, Gershwyn Eustache Jrn (B), Lashana Lynch (A)

© Stephen Cummiskey, Gershwyn Eustache Jrn (B), Lashana Lynch (A)

Only on re-reading the text did I come to realise too, that bereavement hung in the air like a shroud, attaching itself to A & B, haunting perhaps Meera Syal’s Woman and Gary Beadle’s Man and investing his later relationship with Shvorne Marks’ Young Woman – the daughter of A & B – with added meaning.

© Stephen Cummiskey, Shvorne Marks (Young Woman), Lashana Lynch (A)

© Stephen Cummiskey, Shvorne Marks (Young Woman), Lashana Lynch (A)

But it is Gershwyn Eustache Jnr and Lashana Lynch as A & B who dominate two thirds of the proceedings, he muscular, bewildered, she by turns exasperated and spikey. tucker green, director as well as writer, demands a great deal from her performers and like Nathaniel Martello White’s Torn, in this same space last September, they deliver magnificent performances for her.

An exploration and examination then of love from many different, conflicting angles and fashionable as I know it is for writers to direct their own work these days, I couldn’t help wondering if another director might have drawn out even more. Minimalism can have its limitations. 

a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)

A new play by debbie tucker green 

Cast:

Man: Gary Beadle
B: Gershwyn Eustache Jnr
A: Lashana Lynch
Young Woman: Shvorne Marks
Woman: Meera Syal

Written & directed by debbie tucker green
Designer: Merle Hensel
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran
Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt
Movement Director: Vicki Manderson
Casting Director: Amy Ball

World premiere of a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun) at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, Feb 28, 2017

This review first published on this site, March 10, 2017