WhatsOnStage Logo


debbie tucker green's new play at the National Theatre Shed is strange and unsettling

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
WhatsOnStage logo
Nadine Marshall
© Stephen Cummiskey

Of our few genuinely experimental playwrights, debbie tucker green, lower case first letters compulsory, is always a challenge: her new seventy-minute piece swirls hastily around a self-harming woman, Elayne (Nadine Marshall), who's planning her own funeral.

Well, talking about it at least, with Aimee (Sophie Stanton), or easing out from natural causes, not changing the batteries in her door bell so people can't visit, or not come in, and wondering what the eulogy will be like. There would be food afterwards, loads.

In the middle of this, there is Elayne's younger sister, an ex-wife (Sharlene Whyte) who is seriously at odds with an ex-husband, Tyrone (Gershwyn Eustache Jr), over their eleven year-old daughter, Maya, who is heard but not seen, and who is the cause of much recrimination and heartache even though she can sing, can even sing the phone book and find a melody in it.

The playing in debbie tucker green's own production is essentially full on but full of teasing conditions. These are fleeting snapshots, shards of a picture that has shattered before we started overhearing, hints of collapse, the aftermath of friendship. Woolworths was all right, but that's closed, too, "their pick and mix was on point."

The fractured dialogue is symptomatic of fractured lives, the tangled psychological car crash represented in an extraordinary design by Lisa Marie Hall of girders and tubes, a visible art work representing inner turmoil and confusion. Smoking cigarettes are an issue, not because they cause lung cancer but because they burn and scald.

And in the wreckage of a marriage, a sudden accusation – "You need to stop watching Countdown" – hints at lonely, wasted afternoons. These lives flash by, and still the doorbell's not fixed, though the knocker works. In comes company, as the show tune goes, but Elayne is alone, stubbing out fags, picking at scabs. Strange and unsettling.