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Review: Wife, at Kiln Theatre

Provocative and powerful play focuses on the struggle experienced by women – and men – who feel forced to deny their sexuality

06 June, 2019 — By Catherine Usher

Joshua James and Karen Fishwick Wife in Wife at Kilburn’s Kiln Theatre

THIS isn’t the type of show you can afford to switch off to – it’s filled with names and characters that populate various eras over more than 80 years, with productions of A Doll’s House being the thread that runs between the generations.

It helps to have a working knowledge of the Ibsen play, but ultimately the show focuses on the hardship experienced by women – and men – who feel forced to deny their sexuality.

Beginning in 1959, the intensity of the relationship between married teacher Daisy and bohemian actress Suzannah gradually becomes apparent after Daisy and her husband watch Suzannah star in a fringe theatre production of A Doll’s House.

The implications for husband Robert become clear when his wife tells him: “Everything your imagination is telling you happened, happened,” as he dismisses Daisy’s conduct with her female lover as “Not the done thing.”

The hopelessness of the trio’s impossible situation is harrowing to witness and the stark choices they face are amplified by their callous and calculating behaviour. Karen Fishwick in particular brings the poignancy of Daisy’s position to life, infusing her desperate housewife persona with a sense of self-preservation which borders on self-harm.

Contrastingly, the scene set in 1989 is mostly rather fun, revealing the passionate relationship between 28-year-old Ivar and 20-year-old Eric. Amusing themselves by behaving outrageously in a straight pub, they delight in their own potent sexual chemistry while dismissing those around them as “yuppie plankton”.

Calam Lynch is distractingly impressive as the hunky, inexperienced Eric, who fluctuates between revelling in his sexuality and rejecting it. Their dynamic is intense and complex, but it is explored thoroughly in a relatively brief scene.

All strands of this dramatic saga are unashamedly provocative and powerful, but there is a suffocating sense that the play, written by Samuel Adamson, is continually on message, scene after scene. Whereas, it works best when it settles into the storytelling and allows the characters to simply breathe.

Until July 6
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