In this time of political turmoil, it’s been a popular–and wise–bit of advice that we periodicaly take a break from bad news to enjoy simpler pleasures.
Escaped Alone opens with a genial scenario. Four older ladies on a summery patio, sharing small talk and tea.
They keep the conversation light–even after it’s revealed that one of them maybe accidentally killed her husband! (Highlight text to reveal a spoiler.)
Intermittently, one guest, Mrs. Jarret (played by Judy McFerran) stands up to deliver an aside. It may be what she’s actually thinking when the others are going on about TV programs or phobias about cats. Or it may be a description of what will happen to this place in a dark, post-apocalyptic future.
The contrast between the tea party and Mrs. Jarret’s horrifying visions of scarcity and cannibalism (spoiler text!) is shocking (there were audible gasps from the audience during the performance I attended). It also raises questions about what we individually and collectively are doing as the world changes around us.
Escaped Alone is a recent work by UK playwright Caryl Churchill, who is known for interweaving personal and political stories.
The play gives the gift of four meaty, complex, and fun roles for senior women. In this production, McFerran (playing the one with apocalyptic asides), Vivien Bosley (Sally, the catphobe), Holly Turner (Vi, the maybe murderer), and Alison Wells (Lena, who leads a rousing rendition of “Da Doo Ron Ron”), all deliver charming and engrossing performances.
Finally, a note of gratitude to director Amy DeFelice for bringing another Caryl Churchill play to the stage. Felice, who has also directed Fen and A Number, shares Churchill’s talent for using humour and irony to get to the heart of serious subject matters.
As I write this, there is one last opportunity to see THEATRE Blue’s production of Escaped Alone at the 2018 Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. It’s worth seeking out, and discussing over tea afterwards.