Review: The Wives of Others

Image credit: Johannes Hjorth

Written and directed by Tom Stuchfield, The Wives of Others is a dark pastiche of filmic and theatrical portrayals of the criminal underworld. The play unfolds around a dinner table, where the wives of seven gangsters eat spaghetti and drink wine, awaiting their husbands’ return from a ‘hit’ that evening. As their appearance looks increasingly unlikely, chaos and bloodshed loom.

The mood at the start of the play is fantastically bitchy. Each of the women takes offence at the merest hint of a slight, perfectly lampooning the rather touchy, precious side to fictional Italian-American mobsters. The electrifying verbal intercourse between them makes this compelling caricature, as they trade barbs in hilariously melodramatic fashion. 

The host, Angie, played by Lili Thomas, initially takes centre stage in these petty squabbles, but more intriguing is the relationship between Donna and her adolescent daughter (who the women call ‘Jun’, short for ‘Junior’). Respectively played by Alice Carlill and Rose Reade, interaction between mother and her more perspicacious daughter is consistently fraught. Reade’s portrayal of ‘Jun’ is especially striking, and her torrent of emotion when the dynamic reaches its terrifying conclusion is possessed by an unforgettable force.

It is in the overall balance between the macabre and the humorous, though, that the play truly excels at. Violence plays a vital (or rather, deadly) role, Tarantino-esque in its excess. Its execution is comically futile; those killed are essentially the victims of gratuitousness or confusion. Gunshots are pre-empted by an ominous spotlight and sound, an inspired device which both accentuates absurdity and introduces a sense of foreboding to the drama. 

The arrival of policewoman Prendrick onto the scene lifts the play yet further. She acts as a kind of spokesperson for the audience, bursting through the fourth wall and putting the doomed lives of the protagonists into perspective. This turns particularly brutal when she enlightens one of them about their insignificance, a speech cuttingly exacted by Tania Clarke.

The play’s title is clever and apt. The absorption of secret surveillance is the topic of the film from which it takes its pun, The Lives of Others; the characters in Stuchfield’s play are likewise trapped in their lives, unable to flee from their dependent positions. The wives, however, mimic the traits stereotypically exhibited by the macho gangster, exposing and appropriating their silliness, and by doing so, undermining their authority. These complexities make this a fantastic piece of theatre.

10/10

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

'The Wives of Others' is on at the ADC Theatre, 11pm, until Saturday 6th Dec. Get your tickets online at http://www.adctheatre.com/whats-on/drama/the-wives-of-others.aspx

Photo Credits: Johannes Hjorth

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