Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Diatribe of Love

Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gwynne Edwards
Linda Marlowe Productions
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
(2004)

Linda Marlowe in Diatribe of Love

This one-woman monologue performed by Linda Marlowe - best known to theatre audiences for her association with maverick actor/director Steven Berkoff (Coriolanus, Berkoff's Women) but also a veteran of kitsch TV shows such as The Saint and The Avengers - begins with the sound of broken crockery, thus setting the tone for an absorbing insight into the memories of Graciela, a character who reflects upon her life on the eve of lavish celebrations to mark her 25th wedding anniversary.

The programme notes describe the piece as a "psychological and spiritual study of a woman finding herself increasingly isolated and alone in a loveless marriage" - miserable stuff, one might imagine, but strangely enough one would be wrong.

True, this is very heavy going at times and the mood is relentlessly introspective - think of an upper middle-class Colombian version of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads without the inevitable references to Northern chiropodists and you begin to get the flavour of the thing - but Marlowe's performance is persuasive and the script contains some eminently quotable lines. Graciela's marriage, for example, is summarised as "25 years of boredom, bad breath and Burt Bacharach".

Conversely, there are also some fairly cornball examples of cracker-barrel philosophy about age ("if dawn never came we'd be eternally young") and at one stage the characters describes her husband as "macho" without the least hint of an ironic smile, thus betraying the play's Latin origins: indeed it might work better on a UK stage if the exotic Latin/Colombian references were to be dropped in favour of more prosaic alternatives (somewhat bizarrely, we are expected at one stage to accept the fact that Graciela's unseen husband is caught in bed with a naked and supposedly exotic hot-blooded blonde called - wait for it - Agatha).

There is a strong sense in which this is very much a woman's play - I am reliably informed by a female friend that I totally missed the point of the floundering and abortive climax simply because I am a man, and that consequently I could never hope to identify with the character's dilemma.

My only real criticism - and regular readers will become accustomed to this particular idiosyncracy as I settle into my role as a BTG reviewer - is that once again the company's publicity material gives absolutely no advance warning of the play's strong language and adult themes.

This is a trend which is becoming increasingly prevalent, and while it could be logically argued that any unsuspecting parents bringing their children along to such a performance in the first place need their bumps feeling, I cannot emphasise strongly enough that it it both inconsiderate and unfair of a visiting company to expect the staff of a theatre - whether front of house, box office or stewards - to deal with complaints from customers when the scatalogical expletives hit the fan. An age guide or advisory warning on the flyers and posters is not too much ask for, surely? Some visiting companies do this as a matter of course - others are less forthcoming.

For all that, this was a quality piece which clearly struck a very loud chord with its target audience, and Linda Marlowe's ability and stage presence are beyond any doubt. All in all, a class act from start to finish.

Reviewer: Graham Williams