What If If Only

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs ****
Sloane Square
London SW1
Runs: 17 mins without interval
Review of perf seen Oct 1, 2021:

© Johan Persson. Linda Bassett as the ghost of things past and what is to come and John Heffernan, harrowed by grief…

WHAT IF IF ONLY – how many times must that have been said of a best beloved who has died. If only I had, what if this or that hadn’t happened?
Caryl Churchill back at the Royal Court, Linda Bassett – with John Heffernan and in the hands of James Macdonald – back at the Court.

My first visit there in about two years. It felt so strange. And yet the same.
And Caryl’s play, written a year before her best beloved died, takes no prisoners. 17 minutes only in length, situated in Miriam Buether’s white muslin textured box – a room with no features, Heffernan, a glass of red wine before him, wracked in sorrow – tells of grief and hope and possibility. And annihilation. Personal and environmental.

© Johan Persson. Jasmine Nyenya and John Heffernan, the future will happen, in the hands of the young…

Churchill has never been one for convention; she breaks ground all the time. And you will be hard put to extract total comprehension at one sitting. It is absurdism, abstraction – and yet in the hands of Linda Bassett – it is a glorious cloudburst of hope.

There is a moment of sheer theatrical wonder eclipsing all the months of inaction as she enters. The beam that spreads over her face would lift any soul to heaven. She speaks of possibilities, of futures, of ghosts, of being made `to happen’.

© Johan Persson. Linda Bassett as the ghost of things past and what is to come and John Heffernan, not quite ready to let his loved one depart quite yet…

Heffernan’s grieving partner could make her `happen’, could make a future, make her solid – but he does not know how. Do we? do we know how to save our planet? Could we have done things differently?

Unpeel What If If Only for yourself, and its enigmatic possibilities. Another director might have made some of it more tangible, `realistic’. Macdonald – and I suspect Churchill herself – will have none of it. Work it, work it out…but see that beam and know all will be well.

What If if Only
by Caryl Churchill

Linda Bassett
John Heffernan
Jasmine Nyenya or Samir Simon-Keegan

Director: James Macdonald
Designer: Miriam Buether
LightingDesigner: Prema Mehta
Sound Designer: Christopher Shutt
Assistant Director: Grace Duggan
Video Content: Isaac Madge

Casting Director: Amy Ball
Lighting Supervisor: Cat Roberts
Sound Supervisor: David McSeveney

Lead Producer: Catherine Thornborrow
A Royal Court production

World premiere of What If If Only at Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London on Sept 28, 2021

Review published on this site, Oct 4, 2021