After the press night of The Killing of Sister George starring Meera Syal, intrepid Londonist reviewers JohnnyFox and Zefrog hid in a wardrobe in the dressing room shared by characters Alice McNaught (Childie) and June Buckridge (George) as they fought over their postmortem of the night’s performance. Here’s what they may have heard:
Childie: oh come on, George. It wasn’t that bad, the critics are not going to kill the play. People seemed to enjoy it and they did laugh, even if the theme can seem a bit heavy-going.
George: are you insane, Childie? We’re no longer relevant to contemporary dramatic discourse: post-Tipping The Velvet, lesbianism doesn’t have the shock factor and the plot about my dismissal from a BBC radio series is about as exciting as a Clare Balding outside broadcast from the Lord Mayor’s Show.
Childie: you have to admit that the play has probably set the tone for lesbian representation on stage and screen right up to this day. Do you think that’s why it’s so difficult to tell what period the action is supposed to take place? I mean, between the anachronisms in the language and the clothes I am not quite sure whether I am supposed to be in the 1950s or in a Hoxton loft in 2011. I do like the set, though. It was clever of Ciaran Bagnall to include that giant radio speaker in the backdrop. My dolls just love it!
George: The set’s fine, but no more accurate than the costumes by Pam Tait: my Blundstone boots weren’t seen much outside Australia till the 80′s but I thought Mrs Mercy [Belinda Lang]’s suits were as elegant as her finely-tuned performance, an autocratic BBC vixen to the fingertips of her calfskin gloves. Pity about Madame Xenia [Helen Lederer]. Was she meant to be Ukrainian? The accent travelled from Gdansk to Vladivostok. Via Leeds. And what a clunky overacted performance, it was Calendar Girls all over again.
Talking of accents, Miss McNaught, given that you’re Scottish why do you speak pure Brummie ?
Childie: Oh yes, Mrs Mercy! Isn't she lovely? And sooooo nice!
Childie: Don’t you think we could make a bit more of that scene at the beginning when you make me eat the end of your cigar? I mean, for us it’s nothing unusual, you trying to humiliate me, but it’s the first time the audience becomes aware of it and I feel we could do much more – making it real dramatic and all.
George: I told director Iqbal Khan that George needed to be more menacing. It’s not sufficient just to wear trousers and take longer strides to emphasise her angry masculinity, for the play to pivot on whether or not she’ll go ‘over the edge’ we needed to get closer to her psychotic neuroses: unfortunately he’s read Rebecca West but I saw her more as Rose.
But you’re right about the cigar. I’ve finished it now, so get on your knees and eat my butt.
The Killing of Sister George, by Frank Marcus, runs at the Arts Theatre until 29 October 2011. www.artstheatrewestend.com. Tickets: £32.50, £29.50, £20 but a lot of two-for-one and similar discounts are available.
Authors received complimentary tickets and hospitality from Clióna Roberts Arts Press and PR.