The Royal Court Theatre presents
Breathing Corpses ( Archived )
By Laura Wade
24 February - 26 March 2005
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
*Amy’s found another body in a hotel bedroom. There’s a funny smell coming from one of Jim’s storage units. And Kate’s losing it after spending all day with the police. There’s no going back after what they’ve seen. *
Laura Wade’s previous plays include COLDER THAN HERE (Soho) and an adaptation of YOUNG EMMA (Finborough Theatre).
Director: Anna Mackmin
Design: Paul Wills, Lighting: Mark Jonathan.
Cast: *Paul Copley, Niamh Cusack, Laura Elphinstone, *
*Rupert Evans, James McAvoy, Tamzin Outhwaite, Ryan Pope. *
Supported by JERWOOD NEW PLAYWRIGHTS
_Please note that an additional performance has been programmed for _
_Wednesday 23 March at 9.45pm. _
From L to R: Tamzin Outhwaite, James McAvoy, Paul Copley, Laura Elphinstone.
Photography: Stephen Cummiskey.
For a young writer to have different plays produced at two of the capital’s premier new writing houses in the same month says something. What Colder Than Here, which finished at the Soho Theatre on Saturday, and now Breathing Corpses proclaim about 27-year-old Laura Wade is that she is extremely talented.
Only once, in a weak and unnecessary final scene does Wade suggest that she is in anything less than total, assured control of her refreshingly offbeat material. Events flow backwards in time – before a slight forward hop – in an intriguing fashion, allowing puzzlers in the audience to gather further pieces of the jigsaw, as well as additional characters, at each stop.
The plot’s high-performance engine is fuelled by something we never see, but which takes on a more gruesome suggestive power because of it: a body in a cardboard box. This is first mentioned in the suicide note left by middle-aged Jim and discovered by the hotel chambermaid, and becomes a dominant theme when the action moves to Jim’s self-storage facility and then on to Kate’s kitchen.
Wade’s skilful brio is more than matched by director Anna Mackmin, who keeps everyone moving purposefully around Paul Wills’ slickly functional, multi-doored set. Mackmin ensures that each scene crackles with internal energy and purpose aided by a fine, seven-strong acting ensemble.
From Laura Elphinstone’s chirpy maid Amy, who chats happily away to the corpse on the bed, to Paul Copley and Niamh Cusack as a couple suffering from empty-nest-syndrome, the performances are pitch-perfect.
Tamzin Outhwaite puts in a scintillating turn as Kate, furious with her malfunctioning computer and wired after far too much instant coffee with no one but her long- suffering boyfriend Ben (James “Shameless” McAvoy) on whom to vent her anger. This central showdown provoked gasps of genuine distress from spectators with its shocking revelation.
These corpses will breathe their last at the Court in three weeks’ time, but it is surely inconceivable that they will not be revivified at another venue for a richly deserved longer run.
Fiona Mountford, EVENING STANDARD, 1 March 2005
Laura Wade’s play is like a crossword puzzle where all the clues lead to death. This is a tight, tense play: you can’t miss a single word, a single gesture.
Wade uses the play’s structure to make you feel disorientated, almost scared. She is not obsessed with death, she’s writing about a world that is. The tension, the emotions and the sense of absurdity and fear are brilliantly handled. The acting is flawless and and so is Anna Mackmin’s direction. A terrifying tour de force.
John Peter, SUNDAY TIMES, 6 March 2005
Laura Wade’s new play Breathing Corpses (the second by the gifted 27-year-old to open within a month) begins with a scream and ends with a girl smiling at a scimitar. In a razor-sharp production by Anna Mackmin, Wade’s cadaverous episodes spring on to the stage and vanish in bursts of light and sound, as if conjured by a malign magician.
At her best, Wade rolls the frightening into the desolate: the distress of excellent Paul Copley, who found one corpse and about to become one himself, is transfixing.
Susannah Clapp, THE OBSERVER, 6 March 2005
At the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs, former EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite is chillingly horrible – physically abusing both her partner (Shameless actor James McAvoy) and his dog – in Breathing Corpses. It’s a scene played out with ferocious intensity amid a series of tensely calibrated, overlapping vignettes around death, despair and domestic violence that are somehow connected in Laura Wade’s frequently frightening play.
Mark Shenton, SUNDAY EXPRESS, 6 March 2005
JERWOOD THEATRE UPSTAIRS
Tickets 7.50 15
Monday Saturday 7.45pm ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE Wednesday 23 March 9.45pm
24 26 February 7.45pm
Monday 28 February and Tuesday 1 March 7pm
Sign-Interpreted Performance(s) Thursday 10 March 7.45pm Signer Jim Dunne
Tuesday 8 March
9 March 2.30pm
5, 12, 19, 26 March 4pm
16 March 4pm Please note there is no performance 25 March