Parlour Song, by Jez Butterworth, directed by Katie Posner, is billed as ‘A hilarious black comedy exploring what happens behind closed doors on a typical suburban street’. This play focuses on the stifling domesticity of suburbia, and explores the daily deceit and compassion that we must exercise in order to live in close proximity to other human beings.
The three-strong cast offer some superb ensemble acting , passing the baton on to one another seamlessly, and the intimate space of York Theatre Royal’s studio aptly conveys the claustrophobic atmosphere of a lower middle class English neighbourhood, where people know everything about each other’s lives, and yet simultaneously nothing. The set is highly effective and exploited to great effect, and there are some lovely touches of physical drama. The exercise scene is particularly effective, and the marital guide CD provides a wonderfully comic moment.
Parlour Song is neither a comedy nor a thriller but contains touches of both, and is refreshingly unpredictable. Despite the curious sense of the absence of love in this play, it succeeds in exploring how we as humans find ways to continue rubbing along with each other over the years. The relationships feel very real between real-life husband and wife, Simeon Truby and Helen Kay, and Stephen Billington, who plays their laidback neighbour, and the televisual, soap opera quality of the piece matches the domestic theme. This is a gentle piece performed in an intimate space, which left me with a sense of how alienated we can be from those to whom we are closest, our loved ones, as well as those only ‘living six feet away’, our neighbours.