Life – Grist To The Mill
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Written and directed by Ross Ericson
Performance date – Sat 3rd Aug 2013
Considering the title of the piece and the impressive biographies stamped across its programme, I walk into Life expecting a gritty and feministic satire. What actually lies in store is another beast entirely. Very quickly, we establish that this is a rather hollow piece; offering neither originality nor poignancy. It is evidently an attempt at subtle naturalism but succeeds only in depicting women as gossiping and jealous harpies. The individual performances are inconsistent and childish and the script is alarmingly clunky, resulting in a play that fails to give us even an overview of the human condition. It’s almost a masterclass in how to create a play with no meaning.
The story begins by introducing us to three sisters discussing their own personal miseries (Where have we seen that before?). Crissy and Beth lounge in the changing room of a clothing store while Anna frantically endeavours to find a dress suitable for a friend’s wedding. Crissy (Heather Rome) is the eldest. She has been married several times and has two grown children while the youngest sister, Beth (Helen Cashin), bemoans her busy workload. Anna (Marnie Nash) is the morose middle child and balances the others with her annoying altruism. The trio squabble their way through a plot that has no direction whatsoever and, when Beth reveals the tragic twist, there is something of an anticlimax. There is no character background provided and the actors don’t interact like sisters which leaves the audience a little bewildered when they are suddenly confronted with a most unconvincing display of remorse.
The characters are utterly one dimensional. Crissy is a beautiful and bitchy gold-digger, Anna is a spiritual and artistic spinster and Beth is a geeky and gothic workaholic. The script is equally vapid, proposing that women talk only of men, mothers and their own physical flaws. It is something of a slap in the face to all feminist playwrights.
This piece of modern writing seems as though it has been dragged from a tired soap opera. Rome only displays emotion when it is her time to speak and slips into an expression of self-satisfaction when silent. Likewise, Cashin’s nasal whine and flailing arms are truly irksome and while Nash is the strongest of the three, she too slips in and out of believability. I must admit that, at times, a few members of the audience chuckled supportively. Though I suspect they simply enjoyed resting their feet for an hour.