Theatre Review: Origin Of The Species @ Arcola

By Lindsey Last edited 110 months ago
Theatre Review: Origin Of The Species @ Arcola

Clare-Hope Ashitey and Marjorie Yates by Robert Workman
Playing in dinky studio 2 at Arcola, Origin of the Species tackles big issues as part of the mass of celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin's seminal book of the same name.

Molly, a mature Yorkshire woman sipping tea and nibbling toast in her quaint Yorkshire sitting room recounts how, on an archaeological dig in Africa, she uncovers the remains of a prehistoric woman who comes to life under her brush. Having gone on the dig to find a man, she decides to spirit this 4000 year old woman back to Yorkshire instead. We see her struggle with transplanted 'Victoria' and embark on domesticating her, teaching her English and inducting her in the ways of the 21st century. Molly's forced to rethink some of her assumptions about her distant ancestors, the role of women in history and evolution along the way.

No longer alone, Molly takes to the role of teacher and mother figure like a duck to water but it's soon clear that Victoria doesn't need a mother figure, having eaten her own mother post-mortem, become a mother herself and experienced the grief of losing a child - oh, and she discovered fire too. She's a kick ass woman. Mastering the language and developing a taste for chocolate, Victoria is soon teaching Molly a thing or two. At the denouement, it's Molly who's angry at her lot in the world railing against the actual and biological clocks she's forced to operate by and awaiting the advent of yet another year and perhaps Victoria's actually better equipped to deal with the world than her modern sister.

The quaint sitting room bedecked with clocks and edged by the sand of the African desert neatly suggests the proximity and gulf between 'civilised' contemporary woman and her prehistoric ancestors as the poignant relationship is played out. Strong and engaging performances by Clare-Hope Ashitey and Marjorie Yates distract from the play's absurd premise and deliver a thought provoking, imaginative and topical show.

Origin of the Species is at Arcola, Studio 2 until 21 November. Tickets £14/10 or take advantage of 'pay what you can' Tuesdays. 8.15pm start.

Last Updated 01 November 2009