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Alienated: Three short plays

Eleanor Bishop



Have your met our rabbit? by Michael Stevens tells the story of fussy, buttoned-up housewife Hella (Alice O’Donoghue) and John (Gareth Hobbs), an American friend of her son who comes to stay at Hella’s house. Neither speaks each other’s language (though they both speak English to us, the audience). Initially Hella is angry that John has arrived, whilst her son is out – “I don’t like Americans, they smell…All Americans smell, they smell of money and holiness”, but she soon tries to seduce him. The comedy arises from the awkward silences, the snarky asides to the audience that the other can’t understand and the crude sign language they both resort to. They talk over each other, yell and chase each other, before finally coming to some sort of friendship even without speaking to each other. Both actors are very accomplished in the heightened acting style.
Another Moon Called Earth by Tom Stoppard is a brilliant example of Stoppardian wit. Logician Bone (Kent Seaman) is trying to chart the logical progress of history, while his hypochondriac wife Penelope (Sophie Stone) just wants to be entertained.
Outside, a parade is happening, and cheers for the first astronaut to reach the moon can be heard (the play is set in 1967). Albert (Gareth Williams) turns up, supposedly a doctor, to examine Penelope. Sexual innuendo and jealousy ensue. Police Officer Crouch (Michael Campin) also turns up, claiming that Pinkerton (Penelope’s fired servant) has been murdered. Edward Watson fills his play with many delightful touches, and all the actors are rather enchanting, especially Sophie Stone who veers comically between melodramatic fury and simpering sweetness.
The set and costumes in this one are fantastic, and I particularly enjoyed the lighting design with bare lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling like stars, referencing the cosmic elements of the play.
Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett is a look into one lonely man’s life, Krapp (Ants Heath) who is silent for much of the beginning of the play, as he slowly and carefully engages in his bizarre rituals (unlocking the drawer, to eat a banana). Krapp sits at his desk, listening to old tapes of himself talking about his life, often talking about listening to old spools.
In a further twist, he then records tapes of himself talking about listening to previous tapes. He keeps returning to one spool, listening to himself dreamily talk about a previous lover. It is not maudlin, but neutral in a way, as if all that remains of his misery are these tapes. At first it is all curiously amusing but slowly it becomes rather depressing. The set is very cool, with the actual furniture only taking up a small amount of space at the front of the theatre, enabling us to have intimacy with the story, yet the stage stretches way back, giving a distorted view of the size of Krapp’s house, and emphasising the vast loneliness of his situation.
Ants Heath as Krapp and director Sophie Head do remarkably well with a difficult script. Overall it’s great to see these young directors taking on such challenging material.