Theatre review: Shutters at the Park Theatre

Lucia McAnespie and Yolanda Kettle Joanna Kirkland and Yolanda Kettle

Lucia McAnespie and Yolanda Kettle Joanna Kirkland and Yolanda Kettle - Credit: Archant

In Park 90, the most intimate of the three performance spaces in this exciting new theatre, Making Productions stages three short plays by American playwrights.

Two are by contemporaries (Phillip Dawkins and Brooke ­Allen), currently based in Chicago, and one by Susan Glaspell, a distinguished 20th century writer and feminist, whose work is, nowadays, sadly neglected.

In the hands of an innovative ­director, Jack Thorpe Baker, all three are approached experimentally, making the audience perceive theatre – and consequently society – in new lights.

Most obviously, and unusually, all the parts, both male and ­female, are played by women. But, apart from some indications around costumes and hairstyles, there is almost no attempt at impersonation. And the usual on-stage visual clues as to age and personality are not provided.

The result is often very funny – especially in the first play, Cast of Characters – while also provoking new thoughts about sexual stereotyping. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is in Glaspell’s play, Trifles, the most realistic of the three, which could have come across as the most dated, that feminist ­issues are most clearly highlighted. Words and attitudes which are socially acceptable, even unobserved, in men, come across as rude, superficial and even stupid when enacted by women. Just how much progress has been made since Trifles was written, almost a century ago?

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Brooke Allen’s The Deer is the most expressionistic and most moving. Yolande Kettle gives a subtle performance as Clara, who has a degree in history and works in a bar. She is certain she knows the right path for her young brother, Russ (confidently portrayed by ­Lucia McAnespie) and he is just as certain that he knows better.

These plays are presented as evolving, experimental works-in-progress. Joe Colasanti’s set consists of boxes, re-arranged to suit each play. This works well but ­becomes tedious when a lengthy and elaborate rearrangement results in a simple rectangle which could have been achieved in seconds.

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Rating: Four out of five stars.

Until August 9.

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