PAINTING CHURCHES
Playhouse Theatre, London WC2
Opened 22 January, 1992

Successful portraitist Mags Church visits her parents (father once a major poet, mother still a major pain) as they're moving out of their Boston apartment for the Cape; she paints them; miraculously, they like it. "They like it!" gasps Mags. Repeatedly.

There is a strain of lament for going doddering into that good night, but it gets pressed flat between strangled poeticism and flaccid Boston Brahmin sitcom. Sudden alteration doesn't amount to structure, and invoking thoughts about one's own family relationships is a meagre substitute for evoking response to the play itself.

Leslie Phillips now makes a wonderful High Court judge, but a poor Robert Lowell; Siân Phillips has played so many steely women that the iron has entered her soul she gets through her part, no more; Josie Lawrence lacks the subtlety and depth she displays in the Munchies commercial. These Churches need stripping of a great deal of lead. Patrick Sandford fails to do so; he doesn't direct with a close eye possibly he doesn't direct from the same postal district. But there's a happy ending. Yes, life often draws to a spare, undignified close, but in the meantime it's too short for evenings like this.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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