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The Sussex University Drama Society’s “The Squire Sisters” lets you in on what Granny got up to in her party days. There are three 1940s young ladies, sisters and as beautiful as sirens who are lounging on a rock. Helen (Anna Mould) is the caring one, Catherine or Kitty (Dodie Finamore) is the aloof, stylish one, whilst Maggie (Lizzie Parkinson) is the girlish, fun-loving one. So they are each different and yet they are together a single unit, keeping house and looking out for each other.

Incidentally, Catherine is my favourite, but I think that men are supposed to attend this play in a pack and then spend the rest of the afternoon debating which girl is the best girl, in a mini parliament of blokes.

The Squires are nice and nice things mostly happen to them. “The Squire Sisters” is not going to break your heart or fling social injustice in your face; two of the sisters see their dreams come true, whilst the third is left in a position of honourable freedom. A scene in which a young man proposes is beautifully observed and performed. I am making this play sound as dumb as an elephant, but it is intelligent in its design and there is a constant alertness about getting the tone of the pleasantries exactly right. The sisters’ happiness will be so enjoyable because the play has invested a great deal in ensuring that they are always likeable. The Squires are sensible, decent, and light-hearted, and so after a while it does seem to matter a lot that their story treats them fairly.

In its simplicity and freshness, “The Squire Sisters” has a strong flavour of classic children’s literature, particularly Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (like Jo March, Kitty refuses to marry her teenaged sweetheart out of a mindfulness for her own freedom). The writer Lucy Anna Gray shows us the injustices which women had faced in the post-war years but, once it is presumed that we have understood these injustices, we are largely excused from seeing them imposed on to the characters on stage. It is conceivably an interpretive pitfall to regard the sisters as embodying the womanhood of the 1940s. WW2 had expanded women’s roles and opportunities, whilst the Squires represent a sample of everyday women who have been stranded far behind the vanguard.

The acting is sharp in every direction, although George Pundek is probably working the hardest to put extra zip in his character’s zing, as the cartoonish young laird Eddie. Lizzie Parkinson’s songs are a nice addition to the play, and we are equally spoiled with the soundtrack. My only complaint is that “The Squire Sisters” is rather cooped up in its venue, the Spaces on the Mile, and I can picture it being more at home later in the day, at one of the Fringe circuit’s princelier theatres.

So “The Squire Sisters” is family-friendly feminism, at once entertaining and thought-provoking.

***

The AMLD Theatre Company’s “Pale Imitations,” which is still showing at Space Triplex, puts on the table both the plain fare of an earnest drama and a rather sugary jazz dessert. Perhaps, like bacon and maple syrup, the play ultimately glues together. The whole story is set over a few hours between dusk and dawn. Ramone (Jerome Wise) is a commercially successful jazz musician who is about to board an early morning plane to his wedding. Drunkenly, he decides to pop in on an ex, Indianna (Simone McIntyre), who lives in a gallery which showcases African Art. Indianna reminds him of all the good things in life – passionate sex, passionate art, and human freedom. She does not, in fact, so much remind him of these things as rub them in his face. Ramone has, you see, sold out and betrayed his roots for a “conservative” suburban lifestyle.

Keshia Watson’s story is bitter and deathly, to a Chekhovian extent, whilst Nazarene Mighty’s original soundtrack is always squealing with life. The two are still at times ably synchronised, as during an ironic Romeo-and-Juliet balcony scene when Ramone and Indianna are yelling to each other over rampaging music. The moral of “Pale Imitations” is possibly that the music and the art are not meant to have the distance of scenery; that they should be at the heart of this play rather than just lining the walls. McIntyre’s character and Ramone’s hangdog friend Carl (Alexander Kiffin) nevertheless render the drama rather flutier, with their envy and manipulations. The art alone has not pacified these people either, for they seem to be just as disaffected as the corporate sellout.

Pale Imitations” at first resembles a coalition of the non-likeminded, or an arrangement between some random talents, but it turns out to cohere in its final crunch. It also tries its luck: if this was a story about a middle-aged rock star, and set to a rock-café soundtrack, then the clichés would be exposed mercilessly. Live music is unfortunately missing from the Edinburgh production, but it is apparently an option when “Pale Imitations” is reprised in London in September.

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