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The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Craig Higginson
A Live Theatre, Market Theatre and Citizens' Theatre production
Live Theatre, Newcastle
(2010)

Production photo

Fresh from wowing audiences at The Edinburgh Fringe, The Girl in the Yellow Dress is set to take Tyneside audiences by storm at Newcastle’s Live Theatre.

Marianne Oldham, who was nominated for The Stage’s Best Actress Award for her performance in the production, plays Celia, a beautiful young English teacher who has started a new life in Paris. When Celia agrees to take on a French-Congolese pupil called Pierre (played by Nat Ramabulana), a complex relationship develops that starts to unravel dark truths from each of their pasts.

Ostensibly, the play deals with the issues and tensions that surround class, race, language and identity. The allegories and metaphors that are employed to illustrate the idea that nothing in life is either black or white can sometimes seem a little heavy-handed: one performer is black, one is white; educated civilisation is represented by pristine shelves of books bound in white, whereas the black leather-upholstered furniture has connotations of a more carnal nature.

The dialogue is beautifully-written but, because it makes frequent references to linguistic devices, can sometimes seem dense and impenetrable. The emphasis is placed strongly on conveying the theory that words, language and communication can be manipulated to the effect that, often, when a person speaks, more is being concealed than actually revealed. Even scene titles are projected onto the bookcases, amongst a jumble of other words, and the audience tries to seek out the hidden information.

However, the performances are earnest and compelling enough to ensure that we become deeply involved with the characters. Although it is apparent that neither of them are completely who or what they claim to be, we care about them and are interested in them nonetheless. The sexual frisson between them is evident throughout and further contributes to the overall tension.

Running at ninety minutes, without an interval, there was the odd occasion when I began to shift in my seat. That said, for the most part this sharply-written, perfectly-performed piece kept me enthralled.

Runs until Saturday 18th September

Reviewer: Steve Burbridge