The independent London newspaper

Review: Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. at Royal Court Theatre

03 October, 2019 — By Howard Loxton

Toby Jones in Imp. Photo: Johan Persson

NOT just one new play from doyen dramatist Caryl Churchill but four.

They are short, but pack a powerful punch. All very different, they are linked by the incidence of murder or suicide and the sort of mischief that subverts their seriousness while still being strangely profound.

Glass appears to present a group of young people chilling out, including a girl (Rebekah Murrell) only visible when viewed in certain lights.

She is made of glass, so fragile she is bubble-wrapped if she goes out.

In fact she’s an ornament on a mantelpiece along with a vase, a clock and a plastic dog, very aware of his low status.

Kill offers Tom Mothersdale as a god with verbal diarrhoea.

Sitting on a fluffy cloud, he represents all gods, he reiterates what men do, sometimes with the gods’ interference, especially the vengeful atrocities of the House of Atreus, the Oedipus family and Medea, killing relations and cooking children as recounted in Greek myths.

He admits the gods enjoy a curse but discounts divine blame with reminders that gods don’t exist.

On Earth below a young lad sketches and scribbles in an open book and interjects occasional banal remarks.

Bluebeard’s Friends shows them reacting to the discovery that Bluebeard was a serial killer who murdered all his wives.

Deborah Findlay, Toby Jones, Sarah Niles and Sule Rimi are stylish dinner guests at a macabre dinner party who subsequently find ways to exploit the situation with couture copies of the blood-stained wedding dresses.

Director James Macdonald intersperses these three short pieces with circus acts: a juggler and an equilibrist.

After the interval, Imp has Jones and Findlay as Jimmy and Dot, cousins who share a home and a life where nothing happens and what’s passed hasn’t been good.

He goes running to counter depression; she hardly moves from her armchair.

Visits from a younger Irish relation (Sarah Niles) and a local homeless man (Sule Rimi) let them live a little at second-hand. Jimmy retails gossip that matches Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Dot has secrets: she’s been in prison and she has a bottle, which she says has an imp in it. Could it bring them good luck? It is like a surreal TV soap made fascinatingly real.

Intriguing and amusing, referencing classical drama, and provoking questions about many things, it also provides impeccable acting.

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