The Story of Nohome Neville and Unwholesome Clare who Worked in the Kitchens and Smelt like a Dish
09/02/2007 - 13/02/2007
By Charlotte Simmonds
Lighting designer: Will Fain
Music: Andrea Simmons
You people take everything for granted. Daily pleasantries like breathing. And sleeping. Walking. Talking. Getting raped. We should go for a walk. Walk together, that’d be nice, in the park, at night-time, in the darkness. Through the parks, the parks with glue-sniffers and cats. Get yourself raped. That’ll sort you.
We can save your crying windows but do naught for your crying soul.
Nohome Neville: Alex Greig
Unwholesome Clare: Charlotte Simmonds
Classy poetic writing
Review by Lynn Freeman 22nd Feb 2007
The play with the longest title this Fringe, The Story of Nohome Neville and Wholesome Clare Who Worked in the Kitchens and Smelt Like a Dish, is also rather too long in execution. But – and it’s a big but – the writing is terrific, with more than a nod to Beckett but not at all copycat.
The play was written by and stars Charlotte Simmonds and she deserves high praise for both. Her two characters, isolated by loneliness and neglect, find some comfort in each other’s company. But this is no easy love story as they hurl insults at each other punctuated by moments of lust and uneasy affection, of a kind.
Alex Greig is more than a match for smelly Clare as the even smellier homeless Neville.
Like its characters the play has flaws – it’s overwritten by a good 20 minutes, but this is classy poetic writing that’s a pleasure to hear on stage.
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Objectification subjectively realised in exceptional work
Review by John Smythe 10th Feb 2007
Following her extraordinary Arctic Antarctic: a bi-polar play in last year’s Fringe, Charlotte Simmonds has come up with another astonishing and challenging work about people who live on the edge: on the fringe.
The Story of Nohome Neville and Unwholesome Clare who Worked in the Kitchens and Smelt like a Dish evokes the relationship between a young homeless man (Alex Greig) and a café kitchen hand (Simmonds). They treat each other as objects while simultaneously commenting on their actions …
From time to time Clare makes it clear they’re in a play – “I didn’t ask you to write this play,” is his rejoinder – and she also predicts how it will end. And it does. Inevitably.
Meanwhile she talks a lot but he never listens to a word she says; he stinks but she smokes and can’t smell a thing. She wants to be inspired by the filth of his life; he wants to be inspired by her beautiful and clean life. Thus they complement each other, although compliments are in short supply: they use each other for their own gratification …
Remote as it may seem from our lives, we cannot help but relate to it subjectively. Are we more like this, deep down, than we would care to admit? Certainly we all begin life as ‘concrete’ thinkers, and our growth and maturity is marked by a developing capacity for abstract thought; for empathy and human compassion. Or is it just that we learn behaviours that paste over who or what we really are …?
Speaking of paste, a Paste-up Boy (Matthew Nagel) labels each scene: ‘A Phone Rings’; ‘Hobo Is As Hobo Does’; ‘Kitchen Filth’; ‘Neville And Clare Find Cause For Disagreement And Settle Their Difference With Hand Puppets’; ‘130 Hobos’; Clare in Love’; ‘Neville Has A Cat’; ‘Here We Introduce Ourselves’; ‘Clare – Pay Him!’; ‘Clare Thinks Neville Thinks This Is About Sex’; ‘You Must Live A Passionless Life’; ‘Everyone Hates A Tripper’; ‘Neville & Clare’.
Garbage by a park bench and a fruit bowl on a telephone table define their different physical worlds. The traffic between them is as seamless as the blending of internal and external realities. And a wonderfully ‘civilising’ dimension is added by Andrea Simmonds whose live music flows through the action like fresh air.*
In a delightful paradox that captures the essence of theatrical excellence, what makes this story of objectification work so well is the depth at which the actors subjectively experience the lives of Clare and Neville.
Simmonds is Clare, completely, owning every syllable she utters no matter how bizarre. Likewise Greig pursues Neville’s preoccupations and value systems with total conviction. Credit is also due to director Biddy Livesey, that both demand we believe in their world, just as they – their characters – do.
It must be added that, in this its first outing, the play is too long. Large tracts of the text have all the hallmarks of inspired stream of consciousness. Now Simmonds faces the pain of cutting words that in themselves, and especially on paper, are brilliant, but in performance outstay their welcome. Appropriately, an objective eye is needed now to divine the narrative spine, define the over-arching theme, and edit the text accordingly.
The comparison with Janet Frame’s writing came up last year and it remains valid, provided the rigorous work of honing and perfecting is brought to bear. Simmonds’ is an exceptional talent that truly deserves to reach its full potential.
*Patrons will be delighted to know that FRESH AIR is now physically present at BATS, thanks to an ingenious air cooling system rigged up by Rob Larsen.
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