A Yorkshire Tragedy White Bear 14 January


Picture from entertainment.timesonline.co.uk

At the beginning, someone (from the photos on the programme it was Tobias Deacon) appeared to say we should turn our mobile phones off, this was a short play of 10 scenes originally ascribed (on the title page of the first publication) to Shakespeare, and that familicide was defined as killing one’s partner and children and 96% of cases in the UK had a male perpetrator.

So the story is simple enough: the Husband is in debt due to carousing, gambling etc and when pressed for payment attempts to murder his loving and dutiful wife and innocent sons (in fact he only manages to despatch two of the three sons–his wife recovers and he never gets to the third son), while at the end the wife is reconciled–the husband says he is now free from demonic possession–the wife unsuccessfully pleads for mercy on him.

The two basic problems here were that the parts were underwritten–the reconciliation scene might have come off with some real poetry–and the part of the Husband was seriously underplayed by Lachlan Nieboer.  Instead of demonic possession or alcoholic psychosis he suggested controlled irritation, whereas Charlotte Powell as The Wife did a very good job within the limits of the lines she was given.

Picture from londonist.com

At the end, there were voice-overs suggesting parallels with some distressing recent cases, but again this was insufficiently prepared: the psychological basis of these cases seems to be the perversion of a loving father’s desire to protect his family, rather than a grudge against the world and bad temper.

The Japanese-style forest-influenced set featured pieces of bark on the floor, stylised branches on the rear wall, Brecht-style titles for the various locales and some grey steel boxes; and that was all quite interesting and could probably be recycled for a better play.

There’s an interesting Wikipedia article with some useful further links here.

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