Betty

Performer Louise-Clare Henry picks up her Betty mask, and places it on her head.  The expression is resigned, no movement in the face to express emotion.  We have no idea what Betty is really thinking.  She picks up a notebook containing thoughts from her deceased husband.  Whose writings are these?  Is there any truth?  She takes off the mask and puts back on the glasses and becomes a younger Betty, in love but conflicted.  Memories spill across generations.  Her daughter emerges as a puppet, all arms and legs, waiting to be thrown across the room.

This is a moving play.  It’s sad, but we’re never quite sure whether that is because Betty’s life has been sad, or if she can’t remember how happy it has actually been.  To what extent have her memories been shaped by more recent events?  There’s a wonderful scene half way through where she turns up the chart music on her radio, but then finds herself stopped in the middle of the road, alone.  What we see are fragments of a memory – an unreliable memory.  Does Betty have regrets?

There’s an effective sense of pace in this production from Fly in Your Soup Theatre, a combination of Martha Simon’s direction and Louise-Clare Henry’s physicality with the three very different characters.  The younger Betty’s obsession with order and her desire for love counteract the very slow and deliberate movement of the older Betty, and the resentful, melancholy side of the young girl puppet.  There’s a sense of stillness at the heart of the production that makes the highly physical moments even more powerful.

This is a play about fractured memories.  It’s not always clear what’s going on, but over time the pieces settle into some sort of an order.  More than anything it highlights the loneliness and uncertainty of old age.

For more details on PUSH2017, which runs from 14-28 Jan, check out HOME here.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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