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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
Through the Leaves
by Lizzie Loveridge
Martha (Ann Mitchell) is a woman who has just turned fifty. She is a successful businesswoman, running her own Tripe butchers shop. Otto (Simon Callow) is her man-friend, a packer in a factory who uses Martha for sex. When the play opens Ann has hopes that Otto may settle down with her. Their relationship is followed in her diary from January to September.
The portrait of Otto is an unrelenting one. While Martha confides in her diary her romantic notions, we the audience see Otto for what he is -- a brute, insensitive and vain. He is without charm. He arrives demands sex and she starts to undress, "Just take your knickers off" he barks at her. She at least on this occasion refuses to comply. What makes the play remarkable is the lengths that this woman will go to in order to hang on to him. Just when is any relationship better than nothing?
Ann Mitchell gives a tender and understated performance. We see her onstage skinning a rabbit but her bloody occupation belies her personality. There is a continual power struggle as Otto resents Martha's earning power and tells her that butchery is not a suitable job for a woman. She will not give up her business nor her dog, even when Otto accuses her of bestial sex. In many ways she tries to accommodate Otto but he is always defensive, suspicious.
Simon Callow's performance is highly stylised with an elaborately enunciated Cockney accent. Shaven headed, he swaggers and staggers in drunk, helps himself to sex with Martha and to beer from her fridge. He abuses her verbally telling her that she is unattractive. Nothing in the text tells us why he behaves like this. He turns up suddenly and then disappears for days on end. Even an offer of a job from her is seen by him as a plot to control him. We are treated to Simon Callow in the bath and later Martha's first experience of oral sex, giving oral sex that is. Only once are we allowed to see the vulnerability that Otto covers up with his bullying. When Martha agrees to wear the goggles under the sun lamp because he asks her to, we get a glimpse of what he needs to feel in control. It is the sole demonstration of caring from Otto.
The set is the bleak butcher's shop with its wooden block table and tatty furniture at the rear with lighting to change the mood. It seems slum like and unlikely premises for the efficient Martha. The title refers to this quote, "If you go walking through the leaves, you'll have to put up with the rustling". Personally, I think the rustling is the best bit.
I wanted to send Martha to a group for women who love too much so she could learn not to be dependent on a man like Otto. This is not a comfortable play but a sad one.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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