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Escaped Alone

by on 4 September 2021

Old Wives’ Tales

Escaped Alone

by Caryl Churchill

Teddington Theatre Club, streamed from Hampton Hill Theatre until 6th September

Review by Nick Swyft

Don’t old women seem to witter on about nothing!  This is a common prejudice however ‘unwoke’ it is to say so.  And yet if you listen carefully, who knows what you might learn?

Escaped Alone starts with Mrs Jarrett (Sally Halsey), peering through a window at Vi (Jane Marcus), Sally (Michelle Hood) and Lena (Jenny Hobson).  They are enjoying tea together and invite her in when they see her.  Mrs Jarett is thus placed as an outsider, but as the play progresses it becomes apparent that, in their way, each of them is an outsider.  Indeed, so are we all.

After she joins them, the conversation seems to become banal.  The women are talking but not really listening to each other.  But listen carefully.  Some of those hanging comments mean much more later on.  In fact there is probably more to glean from this play than one performance can deliver.  See it twice if you can!

Everyone has a dark side to them that makes them outsiders, and this is what makes these women interesting.  It might be past events, our phobias, our insecurities or a disturbed imagination.  The conversation between the four merely touches on these to begin with, (with the notable exception of Mrs Jarrett’s fantasy world) leaving the audience asking more about these ladies. 

As the play develops, we find out more, although our questions are never fully answered.  We don’t find out why Vi killed her husband, for example, or exactly why Lena wants to be invisible, though we might guess.  The charm of this play is that it doesn’t make any judgements.  That is left to the audience.  We can judge for ourselves whether Mrs Jarrett’s surreal apocalypse shows true insight or whether she simply has a severe mental illness.

If there was a criticism to make, it is that sometimes the conversation seemed unnatural and awkward, but this is a small thing which doesn’t detract from the point at all.  This production of the play by the Teddington Theatre Club company, directed by Daniel Wain, is well worth the £5 ticket price.  It was transmitted through Stream Theatre, and although they have clearly had teething problems, this shows promise as a platform for other productions.

Nick Swyft, September 2021

Photography by Sarah Carter

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