Tag Archives: Gracy Goldman

“Bad Nights and Odd Days” at the Greenwich Theatre

Director James Haddrell and his talented cast bring to the stage four shorts by Caryl Churchill that fans of the playwright will not want to miss. Two pieces tackle the near future and two are relationship dramas. The combination shows Churchill’s breadth of imagination and skills effectively.

The first oddity comes in a piece called Seagulls. Mrs Blair is a “new species of person” who has telekinetic powers. But this isn’t the X-Men. Having introduced the preternatural, Churchill’s ironically mild mannered heroine (depicted conscientiously by Kerrie Taylor) really only wants to feel wanted. A contrast with the ambitions of her friend and now manager, ably performed by Gracy Goldman, broadens out this neat, satisfying sketch.

Closer to sci-fi, set in “The Londons” at a time of civil unrest and pollution, the title of Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen indicates what interests most in this piece. The dialogue for the character of Vivian, superbly delivered by Verna Vyas, contains skilful repetitions that create and sustain an unsettling air of their own. Supported by Dan Gaisford and Bonnie Baddoo, as an estranged father and daughter, the piece from 1971 suffers from being a now generic dystopia.

Verna Vyas, Bad Nights and Odd Days, Greenwich Theatre (credit Lidia Crisafulli)
Pictured top, Gracy Goldman and Kerrie Taylor. Above, Verna Vyas

Moving on to the nocturnal

Arguably the most ambitious piece is Three More Sleepless Nights. This is a trio of scenes, with dysfunctional relationships, each tackled in a very different manner. Firstly arguing; with characters played by Paul McGann and Gracy Goldman speaking over each other throughout. Then a scene with hardly a word; apart from the synopsis of films, that leaves the audience with a horrific image. Characters played by Gaisford and Goldman return in a finale that ties together themes of fear and dependence. For me, what the three scenes really have in common is a technical ability on the part of the cast – hugely impressive.

Kerrie Taylor and Paul McGann, Bad Nights and Odd Days, Greenwich Theatre (credit Lidia Crisafulli)
Kerrie Taylor and Paul McGann

There is such diversity in Churchill’s work that any favourite amongst the four is a personal choice. But Abortive strikes me as the most provocative and exciting. Taylor and McGann perform this twisty story of an affair, which resulted in a pregnancy, impeccably. Crammed with questions, there is also a character who does not appear to consider. Invited into the family home, the troubled Billie is a vivid and intriguing presence who haunts the couple. Wealth and status are conveyed effortlessly alongside complex motivations and considerable pain.

None of these shorts is that short! So the programme is a huge endeavour on Haddrell’s part, not least the intelligent curation. If all the pieces don’t hold equal interest, contrasting them is stimulating. And the strong production of all combines to make Bad Nights and Odd Days a time to remember.

Until 10 July 2021


Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

“Square Rounds” at the Finborough Theatre

Examining conflict through science, in particular the chemistry behind World War I, Tony Harrison’s 1992 play is full of fascinating history. The research behind weaponry and drawn-out moral questions are consistently interesting: the work of Fritz Haber on both fertilisers and poisoned gas – and the Maxim brothers’ inventions – are stuff it’s unlikely you learned at school. Combined with a background of Imperialism and societal change (from women at work to spiritualism), Square Rounds is epic, even before you consider it is written in verse.

Introducing rhyme almost from the start, Harrison’s text cannot fail to impress. The use of language is joyous, which sometimes feels discordant given the subject matter. Rather, taking on science – pointing out its magical overtones – the lines issue a challenge as the lyrical work matches Rationalism with cunning and a ruthless edge. The play is remarkably cold, chilling at times, as it lays bare the inevitability of arms races or ironically sets out arguments for mad weapons in a logical fashion.

Gracy Goldman
Gracy Goldman

Some heart is added to the play with the relationship of Haber and his wife Clara Immerwahr, also a scientist, who argues against her husband’s collaboration with the Kaiser. It’s the strongest scene and has the best performances, from Philippa Quinn (pictured top) and Gracy Goldman, respectively. The production boasts all-female performers – a bold casting decision and a clever one – there are several scenes where the action is more layered as a result. The cast also doubles up effectively, and the multiple roles are tackled well, especially by Letty Thomas. The performers are not helped by an insistence on using the accents of various German and American characters. True, much is made of nationhood in the script, even some puns, but the delivery here is too broad and the result sounds forced. Thankfully, the technique isn’t adopted for a scene set in modern-day China (I told you the play was epic) and the result is much happier.

The question of accents aside – surely a misjudgement – director Jimmy Walters has a good go at matching Harrison’s wit and imagination. The production is clear and concise, the use of music more hit than miss, the set (from Daisy Blower), with its connotations of magic acts, is clever. If not quite the revival a play this strong deserves (it was originally staged at the National Theatre’s Olivier and its ambition calls out for a large venue), there’s plenty of talent to make this opportunity to see such an original piece worthwhile. There’s quite rightly a lot of commemoration of World War I in this anniversary year, but little of it has a perspective this novel or long-sighted.

Until 29 September 2018


Photos by S R Taylor Photography