I have two confessions to make: I’ve never made it to The Royal Court Theatre and I’ve never heard of Caryl Churchill – “by far the greatest playwright working in the English language today.” (according to TimeOut, which seems a pretty gutsy call when we’re looking forward to a new Stoppard next year, Mamet is still turning them out and the likes of Jez Butterworth have sold out two separate London runs in the last 3 years, to name a couple of other contenders…) – so when a ticket offer to support the Royal Court came along it was a no brainer! I was off to see the intriguingly named Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.
This collection of 4 short plays are loosely connected by death and impermanence. Whether it’s the anthropomorphised mantlepiece items of Glass. or the friendly dinner discuss the recently convicted serial killer Bluebeard., Churchill is investigating our relationship to inevitably not existing. An interesting investigation for these apocalyptic times.
Getting rid of the bad news first: the weakest of the 4 plays is sadly the most hyped, the longest and the only one to fall after the interval. Honestly, had we left at the half, I would have walked away with a spring in my step and some ponderings in my mind.
As it was, Imp. dragged on just a little too long, did a little too little and sucked the energy right out of the night.
But the highlight was entirely unexpected!
Kill. is almost a soliloquy, delivered by one (or all?) of the unspecified pagan gods. Churchill (and actor Tom Mothersdale) render a fabulous satire on the relationship between humanity and the unknown.
Emphasising their non-existence and humanity’s cruelness to one another, what starts as a seemingly light-hearted satire on Ancient Greek and Roman mythology builds to a startling, poignant and profound crescendo – perfectly delivered by Mothersdale – which, had it closed the first act and had we left then, would have put an unbeatable cap on the night’s performance.
So for that the night was hardly a bust, and for introducing me to Caryl Churchill. Her portfolio of plays is extraordinary!
The longevity of her career and the causes that she has championed over the decades read like a litany of the problems we’re confronting today. The unequal treatment of women. Abuse of power; both by class and ethnicity. The corruption of money culture. Churchill has been on the pulse the whole time, and that is remarkable for any career spanning 7 decades!
Glass Kill Bluebeard Imp is on that pulse too. Not obsessing with death in a morbid way (as any octogenarian has a right to do) but fretting about death in the modern world, as a grandmother might worry about the world her children’s children have inherited. It is, once again, precisely engaged with the world of the Extinction Rebellion, Trump and a world morally denuded by the generations gone before.
Glass Kill Bluebeard Imp is then, for all of that, a fascinating cycle to see. And Kill is made richer for being couched among the other plays; and surely, that’s what a cycle is all about.