The country music played before each act establishes a mythic American context which is bloodily dissected in Saym Shippurd's 1977 broadside against what later became the values of Reaganomics. Ella and alkie husband Weston try simultaneously to sell their Arizona shack: he to a bar-owner creditor, she to a too-smooth speculator so she can escape to Europe with the children. Weston's rebirth as a responsible family farmer simply nudges the familial duties of self-destruction onto son Wesley's shoulders, while daughter Emma discovers menstruation and crime.
Shepard's symbolism is dense – butchered lambs, baptism, every kind of curse – but not dramatically stifling, and Robin Lefèvre's diligent direction keeps the barely suppressed anger and despair well to the fore. The pervasive totemic notions of America are hacked to shreds by venal (and venereal) cops, besuited heavies too bored to throw punches, and Mametian peddlers of plots of wasteland. This production expressively and matter-of-factly pisses all over 90% of supposedly "angry" theatre.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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