The setting seems ordinary enough. Four women of a certain age sitting in a suburban garden chatting over tea. They talk of the usual things: children and grandchildren, the local shops, the latest TV series and the jobs they used to do. But each of them harbours darker thoughts that simmer below the social surface, prompting moments of private or sometimes more public anxiety.
The peace of these scenes in the garden is even more disturbed when from time-to-time one of the women steps away from the others to tell us about shocking, even surreal, disasters that have struck the world. What world is she describing? How does she know about what she is telling us? Is it some warning about an apocalypse to come?
This is the unsettling yet unforgettable dramatic landscape of Caryl Churchill’s stunning play Escaped Alone. The play was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 2016, and was revived again in 2017 with the same cast, before transferring to New York. This is the first Caryl Churchill play that we’ve covered, and I’m delighted finally to be doing one of her titles, not least because in our play poll listeners and guests have recommended Caryl Churchill more than any other author. Her body of work contains many of the most innovative works in the catalogue of modern drama. She is renowned for her relentless experimentation in form, as well as her political consciousness and the precise poetry of her language. Her work has an unfailing power to dramatize the anxieties that dominate our contemporary world, and in the case of Escaped Alone to present an extraordinarily prophetic vision of a world overcome by collective disaster.
I’m joined in this episode by an expert in Caryl Churchill’s work, Elaine Aston. Elaine is a Professor at the Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts at Lancaster University, and the author of two books on the work of Caryl Churchill.
The film production of Escaped Alone will be streamed online at 7:30 pm each evening for five nights from 2-6 September 2021. Click here to purchase tickets from the Teddington Theatre Club.