Theatre Review: Cross Purpose @ King’s Head Theatre

Jamie Birkett as Martha

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” says Camus, offering us the occasionally gorgeous and glowing image, in what is otherwise a bleak examination of early absurdism: hopelessness without despair.

Jamie Birkett reprises her role as Martha, which won her the Off West End Award for best actress in 2012. Martha and her mother run the most dessicated B&B you’ll ever see, waiting for wealthy singletons to come their way so they can bump them off in the night. Jamie’s one hope, in an otherwise empty life, is that she will get enough money to travel to the Southern beaches where the scorching sand will burn away her painful soul.

Enter the long lost son and brother, who decides that anonymity is the best way to get to know his family – but will he survive his stay long enough for a reconciliation? On paper it sounds like a hotel farce, but the beautiful script is simple, extending every moment of decision with monologue, rather than turning into a thriller.

The set is a crumbly, mouldy affair which encases the chilly-looking actors and their made-up gaunt faces – a few times the front row would be subject to a face full of dust as a book gets slammed shut.

For all its bleakness though, this is absurdism, and dark humour plays an important role. It’s not always clear when you’re supposed to laugh, which led to uncomfortable smatterings of giggling and reproachful looks. But that really is the point – and it makes us understand the futility of confusing social mores all the more.

Birkett remains a convincing award-winner, delighting in exploring the psychopathic mind of poor Martha, while David Lomax manages to pull off sweet and innocent without being banal. Occasionally the translation effort makes itself known with highly formal phrasing, which aids the coldness, but might have been more interesting as a colloquial challenge.

Recommended for people who enjoy reading a gothic novel on a cliff top, people who wear a fake moustache and pretend to be French, people who actually are French, absurdism fans, and rhinoceroses… rhinoceri…

Cross Purpose runs at the King’s Head Theatre until Saturday 2 February 2013. Show times Mon-Sat 7.15pm, Sun 3pm. Tickets £15-£25.

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  • Poetgazer

    Lovely word, but is desiccated – which doesn’t look right and yet it is. Meaning dehydrated or powdered.