Monday 8 November 2004
at 16:10 by Colin Shearman
Imagine you’re poor, got two kids and the landlord wants
you out of your grotty, damp flat. You would think that when the owner
realised you were actually an old friend, it would make a difference.
But not in Churchill’s world, where capitalist values always distort
and destroy human feelings and friendships.
This black comedy from 1972 was Churchill’s first
professional stage play and, written almost contemporaneously with
Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, it introduces the feminist themes
which dominate her work. Greedy property developer Marion (Sanger White)
shares more than a similar name with Marlene, the central figure in
Churchill’s later play Top Girls, as both are women who have to
imitate men to succeed. Marion represses her maternal instincts, seduces
and murders to get what she wants and treats her weak husband Clegg
(Richard Stone) and submissive tenant Alec (Toby H Wicks) like dirt.
Reversing conventional male and female behaviour like this
challenges sexual stereotypes and enables Churchill to argue that
Marion’s aggressive behaviour and Alec’s passive attitude are
ultimately both choices.
The characters are deliberately caricatures and Ross directs
deadpan rather than with farcical gusto. This enhances the humour and
allows the cast to speak with an Ortonesque formality - especially
Channa as Marion’s downtrodden gofer Worsley, who is always comically
failing to kill himself.