Tea and the end of the world: Escaped Alone, a guest 12thnight Fringe review by Alan Kellogg

Vivien Bosley, Alison Wells, Holly Turner, Judy McFerran in Escaped Alone. Photo by Mat Busby.

Escaped Alone (Stage 9, Telephone Museum)

Director Amy DeFelice has a keen eye for terrific theatre (runs in the family!) and has bestowed another gift to Edmontonians by staging this mysterious 2016 Caryl Churchill gem, which has dazzled Royal Court and BAM audiences of late.

Let’s add the 2018 Fringe to that list and a reminder that the best festivals of this stripe also feature the finest in contemporary theatre not always seen during the season, especially short, worthy works like this.

Four 70-something women are sitting in a pleasant English garden on lawn chairs having tea and talking. They talk a lot, about all kinds of things – grandkids, changes around town, pets, getting to the Tesco, lamenting the old working days and working ways, the lot. They are old friends who go way back.

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Gradually, things somehow begin to darken as the talk unfolds and surprising secrets are revealed. It isn’t about midnight urges for Marmite on toast, either. For example we find out what one of the women had been doing whilst away for six years — and why.

There’s a strange, ominous sound cue and the lights go weird. All of a sudden and interspersed over an engaging (!) hour) one of them, Mrs. Jarrett (Judy McFerran) stands up and begins telling us in excruciating detail about well … the end of the world. And it is one helluva final bow, with fat people selling slices of their flesh, eighty per cent of food diverted to TV programs, and mushrooms traded for urine. There’s a rockslide and people move underground. And it travels way, way beyond, in the words and imagination via one of the language’s greatest stewards. Some of it I’ll never forget and I reckon you’ll agree, if nervously.

There is some humour in here too and several memorable monologues – not to mention a very strange (and weirdly affecting) cast singing of Phil Spector’s Da Doo Ron Ron.

BTW, which of these worlds is really happening at the moment seems to be up for grabs. Let’s just say Churchill covers a lot of ground.

Kudos for excellent direction and stellar turns all around from McFerran, Holly Turner (Vi), Alison Wells (Lena) and Vivien Bosley (Sally). The packed house — all of us a bit confused — loved it.

Alan Kellogg


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