What If If Only

Image: Johan Persson

What If If Only by Caryl Churchill – Royal Court Theatre, London

A new twenty-minute play by Caryl Churchill is perhaps the most Royal Court thing, ever. It can be paired with Is God Is, running alongside it, but really twenty minutes of Churchill is all you need from an evening. Featuring two consummate actors, John Heffernan and the wonderful Linda Bassett, it is a study in focus, clarity and meaning. The main character, Someone, played by Hefferan sits at a table and talks. It emerges, from a discussion about art, reality and apples, that his partner is dead. She has been dead for some time, having taken her own life. Bassett then appears as personification of the Future, like a modern version of a Dickens ghost, harder and with no easy answers to offer. Bassett’s performance, a stream of dialogue that seems programmed into her, is a technical masterclass. She also manages to seem both appealing and disturbing unhuman at the same time. Perhaps even more alarming is Child Future (Samir Simon-Keegan) on the night I saw it, who has not happened but is bursting to get going. Churchill’s writing is honed to the bone, every word hitting home. She conjures the everyday eeriness of the supernatural, as she did in Imp, and in the process has invented a new sort of confounding horror that shakes your sense of reality to its foundations. Churchill is a genius, and our best living playwright, but you knew that already.

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