In this play, dating from 1964, we follow the fortunes of Tillie Hunsdorfer as she tries to escape from the chaotic influence of her mother Beatrice and first of all go to school and then win the school’s science fair. She also has an epileptic sister (Ruth) and a ‘$50 a week corpse’ of a lodger to contend with.
The good things about the text are the striking and beautiful images drawn from stellar nucleosynthesis and radioactivity; and the idea that is good for girls to go to school and study science. It’s also rather funny. The bad thing is the feeling that you’ve seen all the rest somewhere before, if not in something by Tennessee Williams then in an improving Young Adult book. Yes we can work out that Tillie is the mutant or hopeful monster produced by the loathing radiation from her mother that will destroy her sister.
As presented by OutFox at the Brockley Jack, I thought we really needed a more over-the-top performance from Betty ‘the Loon’ Hunsdorfer to keep the audience interested, but then maybe she would have been the central character rather than Tillie. I thought that both Evelyn Campbell as Tillie and Katherine Rodden as Ruth did very well, while the production was lucid and unpretentious. In fact, if it had been me I would have been tempted to use the extraneous light projections from their Spring Awakening to illustrate the scientific processes and the other world separate from beauty salons, real estate businesses and hopeless teashops.
Now, with slight modifications, beauty salons, estate agents and coffee shops does sound rather like Brockley in fact…