One play­wright, two tales of mar­i­tal strife

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

way), a young, am­bi­tious col­lege pro­fes­sor and his meek, po­lite wife Honey (Imo­gen Poots) be­come col­lat­eral dam­age and leave like walk­ing wounded.

Its sur­pris­ing con­clu­sion is that a kind of love does ex­ist be­tween Martha and Ge­orge, al­beit ex­pressed in with­er­ing and bru­tal brick­bats. And there is a fu­ture, too, but it will be lived in an emo­tion­ally bar­ren land­scape, among the shards and ru­ins of the life they once imag­ined, much like the cou­ple in Al­bee’s later play, The Goat (2000).

This drama is as darkly funny as Al­bee’s ear­lier, more fa­mous play. Though ul­ti­mately it is more pol­lut­ing than en­rich­ing; more bril­liant sketch than mas­ter­piece. Also, the con­flict be­tween top ar­chi­tect Martin and his wife Ste­vie is sud­den rather than in­sid­i­ous.

Ter­rif­i­cally played in Ian Rick­son’s pro­duc­tion by So­phie Okonedo and Damian Lewis, the cou­ple have en­joyed decades of happy mar­riage and have an as­tound­ingly well ad­justed teenage son (Archie Madekwe) to prove it. But life in their ele­gantly fur­nished brown­stone town­house is dev­as­tated when it emerges that the in­creas­ingly ab­sent-minded Martin has fallen head over hooves in love and lust with a goat.

The ex­tent of his in­fat­u­a­tion is clar­i­fied when the best friend to whom Martin con­fesses, asks if his re­la­tion­ship with the an­i­mal — aka Sylvia — has been con­sum­mated. Lewis de­liv­ers the an­swer with im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing, pre­ced­ing it with a scan­dalised hes­i­ta­tion that lulls us into a false sense that there are bound­aries, you know. A split sec­ond later he con­firms the deed in no un­cer­tain terms. “Yes. Sex.”

Okonedo has much the hard­est job in the play. From which ex­pe­ri­ence and from what case-history is an ac­tor to draw in­spi­ra­tion? As her Ste­vie says, how in the life game of an­tic­i­pat­ing dis­as­ter does one pre­pare? But then, of course, we know that there are other more com­mon dis­gust­ing acts. Sub­sti­tute the goat for a child and sud­denly this cri­sis is rel­a­tive. To say Al­bee is be­ing al­le­gor­i­cal in that sense is prob­a­bly to over­reach. But, as with Martha and Ge­orge, the haunt­ing pos­si­bil­ity sug­gested by Rick­son’s pro­duc­tion is that some­how, de­spite ev­ery­thing, peo­ple carry on.


Damian Lewis (Martin) and So­phie Okonedo (Ste­vie) in

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