Review: Care at the Courtyard Theatre

Guest review by Lucrezia Pollice

Funny, but is it?
It’s all lovely and nice to have children but what are the stories not told?

Care was first performed at the Royal Court Upstairs, with its first revival by the Angus Mackay Foundation at the Courtyard Theatre in Shoreditch. Set in a young couple’s living room, the play looks very intimately at the narratives of Terry and Cheryl, who seem to be dealing with something. It is this something that drives the narrative. An it – a she – something or someone hidden centre stage in a cupboard, which forces spectators to engage.

Terry, played by Marc Benga, is very charismatic and seems at first to be unaffected by the whole situation. Karen Mann’s Cheryl instead is distressed from the start. She is suffering from some pain of her own, trying to get attention from Terry and a love which is not given back. The TV glares throughout the scene as we watch their daily life over the course of a long weekend. The story is simple, but interesting; it gives actors more responsibility to deliver the script.

Throughout the performance, their friends David (Leo Shirley) and Cathy (Jaana Tamra) come round to the house. The relationships between the couples are strong, and create a comical scene in which Terry and Cheryl are in distress but cannot find the courage to tell Cathy and David to leave. The Polish stereotype of Cathy’s character is overly rude and sexual, and her lack of social understanding of the situation is made comical by the hilarious body language during the scene of her husband, who seems to have given up on her.

From what seems like a normal domestic, it escalates into what instead looks like an abusive relationship. Who is abusing who is unclear though. It begins as a physically abusive relationship from Terry’s part, to then shift to a loving relationship, to then seem like it is her who is abusing him. Slightly confusing, perhaps on purpose, who in the relationship was causing troubles. Terry seems to be innocent; he makes all the jokes and seems to be stuck in a house and situation he doesn’t want to be in. Or is Cheryl right in saying that he doesn’t respect her?

The playwright Roy Mitchell was a member of the National and Birmingham Youth Theatres, trained as an actor at the Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre, and more recently has been participating in the creation of BBC1’s New Tricks drama. He touches upon very difficult topics in this play, making the audience work to understand the motifs behind the characters’ actions by not giving much away until the end.

Perhaps the simple narrative at times needs a bit more tension as this is lacking. Conveying a constant distress creates a slightly lamenting voice, which becomes uncomfortable after a while, and accents are slippery at times. The intentions between the two main characters are slightly unclear, and the grief of a baby’s loss is not conveyed as deeply as it could be in moments of despair. However, overall the performances are believable, and it was really lovely to engage with an ethnically diverse cast with such a powerful taboo topic which is death.

My favourite moment must be when Terry and Cheryl come back drunk from the pub and start watching a horror on TV. It is amazing to see how something so simple can be made into something so entertaining. The performance is overall touching upon very delicate topics, but is presented also with light moments of comedy and an obscurity as to what is happening, which might intrigue spectators.

Care is at the Courtyard until 14th May.

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