Linda Marlowe has been working with Steven Berkoff since time immemorial and is often referred to as his muse, with this resurrection of her one-woman show – filmed at Charing Cross Theatre and directed by Josie Lawrence – perfectly suited to the performance constraints of the current pandemic as it provides a theatrical exploration of sensuality, revenge, pathos, heart-breaking loneliness, and riotous humour.
The show is very simply performed with no set – just an elegant black dress and a chair with an occasional prop added for effect as necessary – as through a series of monologues Marlowe uses the prose of Berkoff to explore the many emotions of women with excerpts from his plays ‘Agamemnon’, ‘Decadence’, ‘East’, ‘Greek’, ‘Kvetch’, and ‘Sturm Und Drang’, and whilst there is little to draw the observer’s sympathy, there is much to appreciate in Berkoff’s characterisations, often drawn from his personal experiences growing up, and with Marlowe’s consummate portrayals it is easy to see why they had such a long-standing theatrical relationship.
The challenge however with this production, coming in at just over an hour, lies back at Berkoff’s door unfortunately. In the context of his plays, his female characters have a dangerous, larger than life appeal but this evening doesn’t clearly delineate between either the plays or the characters as it jumps back and forth between them as well as with characters within the same play, which for anyone unfamiliar with his work makes it somewhat difficult to follow.
To compound matters though, these long monologues serve a purpose within each play but when put together it becomes evident all too quickly how essentially alike his female characters are and when combined with the constant bombardment of sexual metaphor that lies at the heart of each of them and told in typical Berkoff manner, it all becomes rather too repetitive and overlong which is a shame because Berkoff’s body of work and Marlowe’s performance are much better than that.
There was a saving grace with the dramatization of the short story, ‘From My Point Of View’, that explores the loneliness of a woman desperate for love, providing the necessary depth for Marlowe to give a sympathetic and vulnerable performance which I found quite moving.
The brainchild of actress Gillian Hardie and developer and film maker Eva Ragoo, At Yours was born in the middle of 2020 while theatre and performance spaces were closing one after the other. Having seen the response to organisations like the National Theatre streaming its plays online, they decided to provide a platform for people who have made, or are planning, their own shows and not only providing exposure and income for them, but for everyone involved. Further information on the company and upcoming productions is available at https://atyours.link/
Berkoff’s Women continues with performances at 2pm and 8pm on both Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd November. Tickets are available at https://atyours.link/show-berkoffs-women.php
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 19th November 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★