by Albert Camus
(translated by Stuart Gilbert)
Reviewed by Tony Peters
Martha Jamie Birkett
Mother Paddie Navin
Jan David Lomax
Maria Kemi-Bo Jacobs
Manservant Leonard Fenton
Jamie Birkett is playing the lead role in Cross Purpose at the Kings Head Theatre. Watch Jamie having Tea With Wilma (talking about herself, her career and her love of Holland and Barrett’s Ginger Chews)!
Stephen Whitson’s production of Albert Camus’ 1944 gothic tragedy returns to the King’s Head Theatre after a successful run last year.
A lonely mother (Paddie Navin) and her adult daughter Martha (Jamie Birkett) live a bleak existence at a run-down guest house that has few visitors. In a desperate effort to raise money and escape to a new life “in a house by the sea” they have taken to murdering the occasional male guest and stealing their possessions.
As this life begins to weigh heavy on the shoulders of the mother and tensions increase between her and Martha, her son (David Lomax), who fled the house 20 years earlier, returns with plans to effect a reconciliation. However, when both women fail to recognise him and he becomes uncertain when to reveal his true identity, he looks like becoming their latest victim.
This is a dark and often intense piece with occasional moments of black humour that is perfectly played by the five-strong cast. But it’s Jamie Birkett’s portrayal of the twisted Martha that is the play’s tour-de-force. Driven close to insanity with bitterness over the life that fate as dealt her, she is quite riveting, and it’s difficult to take your eyes off her as she becomes more and more ruthless, with just the occasional touches of melancholy.
Jenny Gamble’s set and Tim Adnitt’s subtle but eerily effective sound design add to the feeling of foreboding in a production that’s a real triumph for one of our off West End venues that continues to come up with the quality goods.
Cross Purpose plays at The Kings Head Theatre, Islington until 2nd February 2013. Click here for more information and to book tickets.