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A CurtainUp London Review
In an impressive, acting tour de force, Glenister plays the recently widowed Edward Carr on the day before his wife's funeral. The Bush's space has been converted into a funeral home, lying in and viewing parlour, with the friends and relatives gathered in a room off the stage, whose buzz of conversation we occasionally hear. The closed mahogany coffin of Edward's loving wife Mary Jo has a large wreath of pink and white flowers and a photograph of a pretty woman sits on a stand. Mary Jo has died of cancer from secondary smoking and Edward divulges that he too has been diagnosed with the disease and has maybe eight months to live, only in his case, it isn't secondary smoking that has caused this but the chain smoking that gets him through the play.
It's an ordeal for Edward Carr. He loved his wife. As he enters slowly he almost shakes a foot between portentous steps and as he speaks he nods almost imperceptibly, both devices which underline his words and grab our immediate attention. He tells us that his wife is dead and that he grew up in the foster care system and that he never knew his parents. The effect of this tiny venue and his intimate divulgences are to draw us in and he hints at Mary Jo's unhappiness before she met and married Edward. He tells us that he is fifteen years younger than Mary Jo and we tie in the other information about his childhood and mentally label him as probably looking for a mother when he married her.
Robert Glenister's part lasts almost an hour and a half. He is involving and convincing, always believable, sympathetic as he relates his personal tragedy at the loss of his wife. In a suit and tie, his hair long but combed back and firmly anchored, he is tearful as he describes the moment of Mary Jo's death. As he talks about Mary Jo's first husband whom he ousted, he says "Men who aren't in love with their wives are driven mad by anyone else who might be." so implying that Mary Jo's first husband was merely jealous rather than loving.
It's an impressive monologue full of tenderness and memory with small lights of humour, but tears are closer than laughter as he recalls his lovely wife. Wrecks delivers the now eagerly anticipated LaButian twist, unsettling but always stimulating for those who prefer their theatre without complacency. LaBute challenges our thinking on sexual mores and social convention through this loving and intimate description of a happy but unusual marriage.
For Elyse Sommer's interesting review of this play in New York go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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