[2008005] Berkoff’s Women

Berkoff’s Women (FringeTIX)

Linda Marlowe @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

8:00pm, Mon 18 Feb 2008

I forget to carry the one and wind up running 10 minutes late leaving home for the Holden Street Theatres. Brisk walking, a bit of a jog, a stinking hot evening, and I arrive in time to grab a bottle of water, a cup of ice, and settling into the familiar, comfortable, and – thankfully! – cool Studio.

One assumes that Marlowe is attempting to start the piece with a flourish, a whirlwind, but it feels oddly flat. Comments made to the audience elicit responses (I hate when people do that!) and it all feels very… awkward. Coarseness (there’s more jism mentioned in this show than the average Forum Letters) brings forth giggles, the transitions between characters sometimes clumsy – the audience gets confused, should they clap or should they not?

As the blurb says, this production is a collection of excerpts of some of the female roles penned by Steven Berkoff. Of Berkoff, I initially thought I knew nothing (other than his stellar work in Beverly Hills Cop), but then I remembered seeing Decadence in the 1996(?) Fringe, with the gorgeous Alison Whyte in the female role(s). A snippet of Decadence appears here, and tweaks my memory alive, but despite the familiarity it feels… wooden. Sticky. Unsatisfying.


When Marlowe is still, or her movements contemplatively slow, she dominates The Studio; when she allows the light to fall on her face, her eyes convey deep emotion. But that’s rarely the case; nearly all of her delivery is fast, almost to the point of incomprehension. And whilst that helps cover up the occasional stumbles – hey, it’s opening night, let’s not get too judgmental – I just couldn’t shake the niggling notion that there were too many characters onstage.

In short – this was a frustrating show. So much potential – one of the early scenes (with the red sheet as a prop) is gorgeous, and the closer was a heart-rending blinder – but it seems more like an exercise in pushing as many characters out there in the stock-standard hour as possible, rather than an astutely – and sensitively – directed piece. Some of Berkoff’s Women should just piss off, and allow time for the rest of them to breathe.

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