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Suzy Storck, Gate Theatre, review: ‘Modern-day Yerma with flashes of vivid colour’

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 November 2017

Caoilfhionn Dunne as Suzy. Picture: Helen Murray

Caoilfhionn Dunne as Suzy. Picture: Helen Murray

© Copyright Helen Murray 2017

In her first season as Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Ellen McDougall puts women centre-stage by choosing a modern-day Greek tragedy with a female character experiencing a full-throttle domestic crisis.

Suzy Storck

The Gate Theatre Notting Hill

In her first season as Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Ellen McDougall puts women centre-stage by choosing a modern-day Greek tragedy with a female character experiencing a full-throttle domestic crisis.

While Magali Mougel’s expressionist-existential play about crippling post-natal depression and physical abuse could be off-puttingly bleak and niche, this striking piece finds its perfect rhythm in French director Jean-Pierre Baro’s haunting production. Like the storm that threatens to break on the devastating evening Suzy Storck gazes out of her kitchen window, lost to soul-destroying drudgery, the violent emotions expressed produce their own electrifying shock waves.

Mougel’s text, here translated with impressive clarity by Chris Campbell, ripples with literary allusions: mainly Greek tragedy but also folklore and myth. Suzy is in part a modern-day Yerma who repeatedly questions how motherhood has trapped her. She hates her life. Did she choose to have children or was it her passive response to Hans’ courtship – delicately portrayed through spare scenes set at the chicken factory where the two meet – that provides a more accurate explanation of the disastrous turning point. Or perhaps Suzy’s controlling mother [played with fierce violence and razor-sharp comic timing by Kate Duchene] is to blame. Certainly Suzy’s memory, stultified though routine, is not reliable – a fact that crystallizes with devastating consequences when she neglects her three children. The inspired set has flashes of vivid colour that shine light through the fug. Multiple toys litter the white, anodyne floor. A disturbing projection of a decaying body of an animal is sparingly used. When Suzy turns up for an interview at a children’s clothes shop she attempts to project commitment by wearing fuschia stilettos.

As Suzy, Caoilfhionn Dunne breaks your heart and Jonah Russell as Hans walks a tightrope of righteous self-pity. Theo Solomon as the Chorus morphs between secondary players with chilling confidence as the tragedy unfolds. Alienation is everywhere in this world and the fourth wall breaks down repeatedly. Suzy and Hans protest to the audience they are uncultivated people so why should their story matter. It really does. A singular play: go - don’t keep your distance.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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