8 November 2009

Alison's House at the Orange Tree

Alison's House, previously unknown to me, apparently won Susan Glaspell the 1931 Pulitzer Prize which gives it some pedigree.

However, I do know of other Glaspell plays staged at the Orange Tree, such as Chains of Dew, and that was incentive enough for me.

I am not sure what the incentive was for everybody else but I was pleased to see that the house was packed for the performance.

Alison was a poetess who died eighteen years ago and now the family are preparing to move out of the house for good. This stirs up memories for the various family members and the nature of these memories becomes more obvious and darker as the story unfolds.

Alison, though absent, provides an anchor for the rest of the family as their frailties unfold and we learn of several love-less marriages and the reactions to these (some stayed, some ran).

The story concerns Alison's reputation as a poetess as the centuries tick-over from the 19th to the 20th but the meat of the play, for me at least, is the view we get of fractured relationships and fractured characters.

The staging of the Orange Tree allows you to experience these fractures up close like no other theatre can; I was less than 1/2m away from the old lady when she died in her chair. That was a rather intense moment!

It almost goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, is that the acting was superb and the direction made the most of the Orange Tree's unique arrangement.

Another excellent night out at the Orange Tree. I am so very lucky to have such a reliable treat so close to home.

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