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A CurtainUp London Review
In the first scene Anne-Marie Duff is the young wife, May, Ellie Haddington plays her mother in law called Ma Singer. Ma Singer says Joss and May are "too busy making picnics for two." The conversation is strained, the jealousies are ever present. Joss (Tom Martindale) can't protect his wife from his family's resentment. "It's eyes on me all the time, " says May.
William Whitcomb (Sam Swann), an American, arrives in this obscure corner of Cornwall and wants to buy the land and brings with him the light of the kerosene lamp. Joss is offered what seems like a very large amount of money for his land and with each refusal to sell, the price offered goes up.
We jump forward thirty years to 1908 to Teheran where May is a maid to the British army, there with her ten year old daughter Amy (Yolanda Kettle), a stretch of the imagination as she hides under the table to keep her away from predatory men. There is talk about the German battleships and the need for oil which hasn't been found in the British Empire. This scene where a British Army officer offers May a kind of protection has much wordy analysis of the need for oil but shows May's relationship to the world economy to still be one which is servile.
In the third act, we have moved on and it is Hampstead in 1970 and May is an executive with an oil company with Amy as an assertive and stroppy 15 year old discovering sex with her boyfriend. As oil becomes a more and more important aspect of our world, so May climbs the company ladder, sometimes at the expense of her relationship with her daughter. This scene is easiest for the audience but we hear about Gaddafi and the Libyan revolution auguring changes to come in the world of oil producing states.
In scene four, Amy has left home to live in a war zone with a humanitarian brief. May, her rich and powerful mother is an MP come to get her back home and to pay off Amy's friend Aminah (Lara Salwalha). The relationship between mother and daughter is at its lowest ebb.
The final scene is set in 2051 where both women wear fat suits to reflect their sedentary lifestyle and aging. We are back in Cornwall with the privations of a post oil world. Choices have to be made between charging the car and taking a hot bath. The women continually bicker. Everything is delivered as the relationship between labour and heat has been lost. "Vigel" is the source of all information and "black patches" disrupt communication. A Chinese woman speaks Mandarin, translated using futuristic "translation " spectacles, and offers a technological solution to the dearth of energy. This scene has a lasting impact and we contemplate a terrible future without the natural resources we have become so used to.
Ella Hickson has given us an original take on the mother daughter relationship within a context of diminishing natural resources in this broad sweep of a play with its emotional hook forcing our thoughts to focus.
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Written by Ellie Hickson
Directed by Carrie Cracknell
Starring: Anne-Marie Duff, Yolanda Kettle, Bryan Ferguson
With: Nabil Elouahabi, Ellie Haddington, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Mothersdale, Lara Sawalha, Sam Swann, Christina /Tam
Designed by Vicki Mortimer
Sound Design: Peter Rice
Lighting Design: Lucy Carter
Composer: Stuart Earl
Movement: Joseph Alford
Video: Luke Halls
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7359 4404
Booking to 19th November 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 18th October 2016 performance at Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London N1 1TA (Tube: The Angel)
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