Tag Archives: Royal Court Theatre

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball

Royal Court Theatre, London

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (Royal Court Theatre, London) – Carole Woddis

*** (three stars)

Rebecca Gilman and the Royal Court certainly have a big thing going. This is the fourth play they have premiered and the second master-minded by artistic director, Ian Rickson. The last time he took a Gilman play and nursed it into explosive fire was, as it turned out, the valedictory stage appearance of Katrin Cartlidge. She gave a devastating account of a female journalist under threat from stalking in Boy Gets Girl.

One of the impressive things about Gilman is the consistently moral thrust she gives her enquiries which has previously included links between deprivation and violence (The Glory of Living) and racism in white ivy-league academe (Spinning into Butter). Here, it’s an unexpected parallel between the questionable dictates of artistic success and, say, a baseball player who wins the World Series, to show the pressures both are under to continue hitting `home runs’.

This unlikely conjunction co-exists within the schizoid figure of Dana Fielding, a successful contemporary artist now feeling the heat who, having tried to commit suicide, takes refuge in a mental hospital and the comforting arms of an alter-ego, one Darryl Strawberry, sometime baseball ace.

An old ploy – truth-telling through pretence – Gilman’s new twist enlivens a play that  commands sympathy but, one major speech apart, feels muffled. X-Files’s Gillian Anderson, on her second West End outing, however seems far more at home here. The pressure is off her in Sloane Square and with her painfully skinny frame and rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights haunted vulnerability she persuasively embodies resistance and rediscovered independence of spirit, ironically, through false identity.

But then irony runs through Gilman like a blue vein. Rickson might, with advantage, have played it with a tad more wellie.

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball runs at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs to May 15, 2004

First published in The Herald in May 2004


© Stephen Cummiskey

© Stephen Cummiskey

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London

Debbie tucker green reaches parts other writers can’t. She cuts to the chase in a way that is like a scythe or a scalpel cutting through skin. It’s clean, swift and it hurts in the sense of a cut bringing you up short with reality and truth. And she has a piercing sense of injustice. Continue reading

Seven Jewish Children

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London

Yes, you read it right. 10 minutes, the length of Caryl Churchill’s `response’ to Gaza. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, `quick response’ could be applied as much to the Arts as to the emergency services. Now a quick theatrical response is rare. It evidently takes something traumatic to fire the imagination of artists and writers these days. Gaza has clearly been one of them.

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My Name is Rachel Corrie

Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London

We need heroes and heroines. Was Rachel Corrie one or a hopelessly naïve innocent. Certainly it seems she came into this world already fully formed. At the end of this 90-minute solo `tribute’ to the peace activist killed in Gaza, a short video plays. It is Corrie, delivering a speech on children and World Hunger, potent in its eloquence, blazing in its idealism. She is aged 10. Continue reading

How to Hold Your Breath

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London

Zinnie Harris is one of our most original, exciting dramatists. Her latest, How to Hold Your Breath doesn’t entirely succeed but is almost breathtaking in its ambition. An attempt to present the possible collapse of modern 21st century European life in terms of a grand metaphor, it ends in an image all too recognisable from the front pages – illegal immigrants failing to survive a sinking ship. Slipping and sliding down Chloe Lamford’s raised platform, it’s one that also powerfully recalls echoes of the Final Judgement.

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