Sunday, 14 February 2010

Silvia Plath: The Girl Who Wanted to be God**

Silvia Plath: The Girl Who Wanted to be God
Gallery 314, Richmond
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on February 14, 2010

This week was the anniversary of American poet, Silvia Plath’s suicide in 1963. She was 30 at the time of her death but had produced a novel, The Bell Jar, and books of poetry including her early work in The Colossus and more mature work in Ariel.

The Girl Who Wanted to be God was originally developed by Gillian Hardy, Karen Corbett and Rosemary Johns with Brenda Palmer, who directs this production. The play attempts to depict, in an abstract form, Plath’s entire short, life: childhood, college years, her fraught marriage to, and separation from controversial English poet, Ted Hughes and more. Dramatising a biography is a tall order. A life rarely has a natural dramatic arc because of its ups and downs – and Plath’s life was certainly an emotional and psychological roller coaster.

The stylisation and abstraction of this production unfortunately obscure the story and character rather than illuminating them. The performance style feels laboured and script structure rather dated, like something devised in a 1970s drama workshop.

Plath is played by three women, all older than Plath, who depict Plath’s inner world by playing three alter egos: the parent (Laura Hill), the adult (Carolyn Masson), and the child (Peppa Sindar). Presumably, this is based on the old theory of Transactional Analysis that suggests that, at any one time, our thoughts and actions are governed by our inner parent, adult or child.

The trio communicate as separate voices in Plath’s head and through their stylised movements. There is insufficient detail or complexity to the movement which often feels undirected or aimless, and the actors look a little uncomfortable. Kasey Gambling’s unaccompanied snatches of song add another layer to the piece but the singing seems to be added on rather than fully incorporated.

The staging of this production needs greater complexity and resonance in order to capture the vivid, intense, layered and messy inner world of Plath and the velvety darkness of her poetry. The metaphoric form, in the end, does not quite work.

By Kate Herbert

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