Quaker Meeting House, v40
12:30 (ends 24 August, not18)
🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 Stars)
Despite the title, this is NOT a play for children!
A young girl whose name we learn is Susan is sitting on the stairs talking to herself: she looks out of the window but makes sure she is not seen by anyone outside – “I mustn’t knock: good girls don’t do that”. Suddenly she notices us and, unsurprised, talks to us as much as to herself, giving a running commentary on what she sees outside – it’s raining, has been raining for such a long time that there’s water all up the road and there are ducks swimming in the water.
Susan becomes very concerned for the ducks, afraid they will be squashed by the cars in the street: her extreme agitation makes us begin to realise that this is not, as we might have thought, a very young girl playing on the stairs before going to bed, but a somewhat older girl [how old never becomes very clear] who has quite serious learning difficulties She keeps repeating things her mother says to her – it doesn’t immediately become clear that her mother is dead – and also things her father says: he’s asleep in the chair in the living room, but he’s been asleep for a very long time, and the rain isn’t stopping. Slowly we piece together things about Susan and her life: the girl herself has no real understanding of them, simply repeating what she’s heard one [adoptive] parent or the other say. All that is clear to her is that she mustn’t leave the house any more, but stay where she will be safe…
It’s an incredible piece of acting by Deborah Pugh, who is absolutely perfect as a young child whose mind hops randomly from one thing to another: her body language is also perfectly observed. This makes the later realisation of what has happened to her, and what the ‘little rabbit’ she talks about really was, all the more shocking.
It’s not a comfortable play but an extremely well written [by Jane McNulty] and superbly acted one. I’m a little unsure about the device whereby a seemingly random audience member is invited to become the deus ex machina who averts what I feared would be the tragic ending to this situation, but very glad that he was willing to take part.