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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
Sliding with Suzanne

by Lizzie Loveridge
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It's not (sic) good just like moving somewhere else and thinking things'll be different. I mean you move from your shitty little flat to a shitty little flat down here . . . so what? What's gonna change? How're things suddenly going to be wonderful? I don't get it.  
--- Luka

Sliding with Suzanne
Bryan Dick as Luka, Monica Dolan as Suzanne
(Photo: John Haynes)
The Royal Court has a commitment to find a new generation of playwrights. They have produced Judy Upton's new play Sliding with Suzanne in conjunction with ex- Royal Court Artistic Director, Max Stafford Clark's, company Out of Joint which tours the country with new writing. At the rear of the programme/script are some excellent notes for those who might like to try writing plays. Judy Upton and other writers like Mark Ravenhill, Caryl Churchill and April De Angelis give their tips on how to start, how to give the play shape and build characters and where to send your finished play.

Sliding with Suzanne is a gritty play dealing with the issues faced by a woman in her mid thirties who feels her life is slipping out of control. It is a play which I have found grows on me as I have had time to reflect on its structure and contrasting characters. Upton has a real skill for dialogue and her characters sound absolutely right but her play left me feeling dissatisfied.

Suzanne (Monica Dolan) is a full time foster mother and single parent of other people's children, teenagers others have found too difficult to have living in their families. She currently rents a flat in London and fosters Luka (Bryan Dick), a 16 year old boy. She arrives in Brighton to see her mother Theresa (June Watson) and ask her advice on how to cope with Luka.

Suzanne is volatile and outspoken even by the linguistic standards of the street. In her crisis she has been drinking too much and making promiscuous decisions that look as terrible as she does in the morning. She feels that she is "on the slide".

Luka comes to Brighton looking for Suzanne. Theresa has a shy, widower "boyfriend", Ned (Roger Frost) who is turning to her for companionship. Suzanne meets 17 year old Josh (Danny Worters) behind the counter of a Brighton "corner" shop. Danny has a younger sister, Sophie (Loo Brealey) is a computer geek, meeting American boys on the internet. Of the teenagers who comprise half the cast of six only Bryan Dick as Luka brings the necessary depth to his role.

The questions which remain unanswered by Judy Upton are - How did Suzanne become trusted by social workers as a foster parent? and - How did Suzanne go off the rails given her relatively normal mother? The play contrasts styles of mothering from Suzanne's "big sister" or even more intimate and inappropriate, approach, to Theresa's caring which is based on meal planning, shopping for food and feeding. Hints are given as to Suzanne's eating disorder (she has vomited all her life and at school they thought that she might be pregnant). Upton's play also touches on the question, Do children who are sexually abused become abusers? In the Royal Court's small studio space, the set is kept appropriately simple: the shop with its shelves of packaged groceries and Theresa's kitchen. A photographic backdrop shows Beachy Head, the seaside cliffs near Brighton.

Sliding with Suzanne
Written by Judy Upton
Directed by Max Stafford-Clark

With: Monica Dolan, Danny Worters, Bryan Dick, June Watson, Roger Frost, Loo Brealey
Design: Julian McGowan
Lighting Design: Johanna Town
Sound: Paul Arditti
Running time: Two hours with one interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 22nd September 2001 then on tour in the UK and Madrid to November 2001
Co-produced by Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on the 7th September 2001 performance at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square London SW1

2001 cd-rom deluxe

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