White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 6th June 2019
“whilst the execution isn’t quite as slick as it could be, Watts has done well in discovering a long-discarded play which speaks volumes to a modern audience”
Director Graham Watts’ mission is commendable: he is seeking out the works of women playwrights that have never seen the light of day; not lost works, but rather those plays that were never even found. And in ‘Garry’, written way back in 1954, he has discovered a story with plenty of meat for a twenty-first century audience.
Wilma (Phebe Alys), a doting newlywed, is so completely devoted to her husband Garry (Thomas Martin) that she fails to see past what he tells her, to who he truly is. This is due in large part to the fact that he doesn’t know either. Decades ahead of her time, Sophie Treadwell contemplates the psychological trauma caused by believing homosexuality to be “dirty”, and the potentially lethal repercussions of denying who you are and what you want. Peggy (Claire Bowman), Garry’s sister, adds another interesting component as a happy prostitute, considering her work as a means to sating her own appetite.
Unfortunately, whilst the content of the play has some interesting elements, it’s hard to suspend disbelief owing to the obvious immense concentration required by most of the cast to hold on to their American accents. Phebe Alys is an exception however, consistent in both her sweet southern cadence and her commitment to her character’s intense vulnerability. She lays it on a little thick in parts, but it suits the slightly over-dramatic style of the era.
The soundtrack (Stuart Bowditch) acts as more of a prop, consisting mostly of whatever radio channel the characters tune in to, that is until the closing scene. The lights come down to a hopeful piano sonata as Alys and Matthew Wellard (playing Dave Andrews, a journalist and interested party) look on dreamily over an imaginary horizon, tying everything up in to a neat little ending as though to say, everything’s going to be alright now. Not to give the game away too much, but I’m not sure that’s true… I mean, someone was murdered, and someone else was waving a gun around threatening to kill a stranger only a moment before.
But whilst the execution isn’t quite as slick as it could be, Watts has done well in discovering a long-discarded play which speaks volumes to a modern audience. Perhaps this is the beginning of a Sophie Treadwell revival; I look forward to seeing what other exciting works her peers didn’t appreciate.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Ali Wright
White Bear Theatre until 22nd June
Previously reviewed at this venue: