Cross Purpose

Wilmas Rating [rating=4]

Cross Purpose was author Albert Camus first play in 1944. He wrote about absurdism. His stories written in cycles (first an essay, then a novel and finally a play) all with the purpose to reinforce his message.

Jamie Birkett (Joanne in the recent performance of Rent at the Greenwich Theatre) stars as Martha, a troubled young girl who dreams of escaping the run down guest house she runs with her mother and living in the sunshine by the sea. Slowly, one guest at a time, along with her mother, she poisons the guests that come to stay, stealing their money and discarding their bodies in the river. Mother (Christina Thornton) is old and tired and wants the killing to end. Martha assures her that the next will be the last and despite her mothers reluctance to continue, Martha places guilt upon her saying ‘it is you who brought me into a world of cloud and mist, instead of a land of sunshine’ and she agrees to assist her one last time.

Jan (David Lomax) left his mother and sister at the guesthouse to go on his travels twenty years ago. Now, after his father’s death, he feels he should return to share his wealth with his family. He returns to his home posing as a guest, hoping his family recognise him and he will see how his wealth can best help them.

Subtle musical chimes reinforce the look on Martha’s face when Jan tells her he is from abroad and she realises he is the perfect victim as he has no close by family to come looking for him.

That night, Martha and her mother carry out their task, poison Jan’s tea and discard the body. It is only when they find Jan’s passport in with his belongings that they realise they have killed their own family. Mother, distraught at this news decides she can’t go on living and goes to join her son in the river. Martha (stone face and un affected by the news) protests, having believed that over the years (despite knowing her brother meant more to her mother than she) the killings had brought them closer together. A surprise and unexpected guest brings the show to a conclusion, where we see if Martha was just a girl in search of love from her mother or a soul so twisted she can see no wrong doing.

Leonard Fenton plays the role of Manservant throughout the show (a silent role apart from a few final words that end the performance). Leonard is a familiar face, best recognised as playing Doctor Legg in Eastenders (1984-2007).

Having seen Jamie Birkett perform in the musical Rent recently, I found it refreshing to see a young actress who not only has the versatility to belt out huge show tunes (in a well know show like Rent), but can also play the dark and complex role of murderer in a straight play.

I have always said it is amazing what you can find at the back of a pub. Being sat in the back room of  The Kings Head Theatre in Islington brings home what theatre is all about. Acting is an art, a passion. Whether you’re performing in front of 10,000 people or 100 people, actors do this job because they believe in the piece they are performing.

Cross Purpose can, at times feel repetitive in its dialogue, but this was Camus way of writing in order to reinforce a message. As Winston Churchill once said  If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use the pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time; a tremendous whack. Cross Purpose certainly is that (a tremendous whack of thought-provoking, poetic dialogue that combined with superb acting creates a show well worth seeing).


See Cross Purpose at the Kings Head Theatre until 11th November.


Watch my Tea With Wilma video interview with Jamie Birkett where she talks about Cross Purpose.

No poisoned Tea was drunk during the making of this video.