1 September 2011

A Woman Killed with Kindness at the NT

Some good reviews and an offer on the tickets persuaded me to go and see A Woman Killed with Kindness at the National Theatre.

I had done my usual pre-theatre research, i.e. I had just seen it mentioned in some tweets, so it was something of a shock when the Upstairs Downstairs characters starting speaking in a Shakespearean manner with the prose containing old words and phrases as well as having a steady rhythm to it.

Another surprise was soon to come to me,
As the dialogue rhymed occasionally.

The play opens with a high-society wedding.

We meet some of the groom's friends and in their friendly banter a high-stakes bet is arranged concerning fine country pursuits involving horses and dogs.

The scene shifts to the other half of the stage where we see the house of the friend with whom the bet was made.

He arrives back from the wedding very drunk and is put to bed by his sister and staff. This is clearly something that they are used to doing.

The story starts with wedding bliss
But soon things start to go amiss.

The happy couple start off happily enough (though the wedding night itself was graphically grim) and soon the bride becomes a mother.

The trouble starts when a friend of the husband is invited to stay in their house for a while.

He fancies his chances with the bride,
And his advances are not denied.

Disturbingly this relationship starts when she is heavily pregnant.

Nearby things are not going much better.

The alcoholic brother has money troubles and the house is only kept going thanks to the careful management of his sister.

This includes selling some paintings.

A rich friend offers to clear the debt,
But only if wedding demands are met.

And so the tragedy unfolds. In one house a woman is cursed by her illicit relationship and in the other a woman is cursed by the need for money.

Seeing the two stories unfold side by side is very effective and the two hours slides past easily and the now out of date custom of having an interval is not noticed.

The twin tragedies (and the larger one in the title) may come as little surprise but its a good yarn carried along at a decent pace, delivered superbly by the cast and staged intelligently but not fussily.

There may be nothing exceptional about the play but there is nothing at all wrong with it either and what you get is a good solid show. And that's good enough any day.

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