I’ve never quite shaken off my childhood aspiration to be a forensic pathologist; remember Quincy? Somehow forensic science became agricultural economics as running a tea plantation in Malawi replaced the desire to don a white coat; Out of Africa may have had something to do with this change of career direction. At the beginning of the week I was intrigued to see Fentanyl cited as behind the death of a prisoner in Silent Witness, this pain-killer has previously featured in another crime drama and is what is the active ingredient in the ‘lollies’ I use. Apparently Fentanyl has a high street value yielding a ‘legal’ high if ground up and injected; unsurprisingly young people pursuing this particular pleasure have met a sticky end!
The same episode of Silent Witness had Forensic Pathologist Leo splitting up from his partner Janet played by Jaye Griffiths; the irreconcilable differences linked in part to her desire to adopt a child. Leo has lost his wife and child in a road accident albeit some time ago but he can’t go there again; for him it seems fatherhood is a completed chapter. ‘I just don’t love you’ Leo tells Janet; cue (understandable) emotional meltdown as she hadn’t seen this one coming! Bastard, no spineless amoeba of a man, you are so much better off without him Janet!
Having spent time recently working with pregnant women I find my senses heightened when the subject of motherhood is raised. As a childless spinster I am a little in awe of mothers and the responsibility that comes with the job. I enjoy being Godmother to my 4-year-old godson (who arrived today minus one of his front teeth following a close encounter with the seesaw) but as a full-time job you can count me out! The pain that some women experience when unable to conceive is seldom truly understood by the majority who are happily breeding away. The stoic minority who find a way to explain away the absence of offspring when the recent mother bemoans that she has ‘fallen pregnant’ again are bloody patient saints in my opinion!
Back to Jaye Griffiths and her broken relationship in Silent Witness. Hold that thought as last night a friend and I went to see Clytemnestra at the Sherman Theatre. And who was playing Clytemnestra why Jaye Griffiths of course; imagine my delight! I confess that I didn’t know the plot of the play, in fact I had asked several people during the day the same question and none of them could shed any light on it. Poor show all round really so I was a lamb to the slaughter as we entered the auditorium. The refurbished Sherman Theatre is a substantial improvement overall but it takes the likes of me to root out the snags that remain or in this case the snag created when resolving a previous problem. I refer to the lift to the auditorium from the foyer and ok its only a short flight of steps but with weeble like balance and 2 crutches it’s a bit of a challenge.
The friend I went with is my regular theatre partner and we managed to make the same mistake this time as the last three times we’ve frequented the establishment. Now it is a reasonable expectation that if there is a lift going from the ground floor to the upper levels that it would stop on each floor. Well no this logic doesn’t work in the Sherman on one side of the theatre. As we had block booked a whole load of shows I had selected the same seats each time. Said seats direct the punter to enter the theatre from the right hand side of the foyer. Being intelligent women capable of following instructions we duly got in the lift on the right side of the foyer. As the doors closed we looked at each other and said ‘bugger’ in unison (silently in our heads as we are polite and well brought up). This lift does not stop at the auditorium level unless you have a special pass-key which of course paying punters don’t have. With a simultaneous sigh and raising of the eyebrows we get out of the lift and brace ourselves for the stairs; I stare hard at the carpet as if my magic powers might turn it into an escalator which of course doesn’t work!
In addition to my mobility difficulties my companion is heavily pregnant; neither of us are filled with joy at the prospect of the stairs but up we go like little mountain goats (ok more like ancient Nanny goats given our collective fatigue). We (again) make a comment to the usher as she tears the tickets and we get the same response as last time i.e. try the other side next time as the lift does stop at the auditorium level if one enters from the left. Surely a design fault? Or should I remember always to dress from the left!
By the time the curtain raises we are flagging with fatigue as numerous people entering from the left need to walk in front of us to get to their seats on the right! Sitting next to us are two elderly ladies who laugh seemingly randomly at this Greek Tragedy; they are evidently rather more familiar with the plot than I am. In the absence of a basic knowledge of the story I begin to make unintended connections between Janet (Silent Witness) and Clytemnestra; ladies I augment my reality to make sense of this character’s behaviour.
Janet has every reason to be unhappy with Leo as he has dumped her brutally even when she says she is OK with him not wanting to adopt a child. Clytemnestra is wild with grief after the death of her daughter sacrificed by her father Agamemnon. Jaye Griffiths does a good job of losing her mind most graphically and articulately – welding a huge knife Clytemnestra dressed in a fabulous frock lurches covered in blood across the stage. Behind her Agamemnon hangs slain by his ankles; Leo watch out Janet has been watching you perform autopsies and boy has she grasped the basics of anatomy! It all makes sense to me now – the maternal instinct is primeval in its nature; stronger than fidelity to the father who crosses the line at his peril!
The rather small audience (c40ish) clapped appreciatively although hardly filling the auditorium with rapturous applause. The ladies next to us needed time to compose themselves before getting up; if fact we had to manoeuvre ourselves awkwardly around the tweed covered knees! As we reached the stairs an ex-colleague of mine ask what I thought to which I responded ‘mercifully short’! Not quite what he was expecting. I was trying to remember what had made me suggest going to see this show and then I saw Gwyneth Lewis name on the poster. Why I wondered would you want to rewrite an existing script? Something else I just don’t quite get!
The performance is accurately reviewed by Elisabeth Mahoney in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/apr/23/clytemnestra-review