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The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Craig Higginson
Salberg Studio, Salisbury Playhouse
(2011)

The Girl in the Yellow Dress production photo

Present continuous or past perfect? There's no certainty about the future of either of the characters in Craig Higginson's combative duologue The Girl in the Yellow Dress which opened this week in The Salberg Studio of Salisbury Playhouse.

Celia, outwardly prim English teacher, and Pierre, handsome Congolese student who arrives on her doorstep with "the stars of a Paris rainfall" in his jet hair.

Immediately, the atmosphere is piquant - who will crack first? It is a contest first seen in Higginson's South Africa and which played with considerable success at the Edinburgh Festival.

This taut production by Tim Roseman is perfect for the intimacy of the studio. Fiona Button is a lovely Celia, at one moment straight-laced, the next coquettish, leaving us, initially at least, with some sympathy for the dark-skinned boy struggling, or not, to get to grips with the complexities of English syntax.

But don't think the rest of us, natives perhaps, will be much the wiser. For scintillating though Higginson's excellent dialogue is, it does not throw much, if any, light upon the grammatical contexts over which we laboured - or not as the case may be (sic) - in our yesteryears!

Nor can I avoid the revelation that this excellent production survived a late change of cast through indisposition, a crisis rescued by the recasting of Clifford Samuel as Pierre. And a splendid performance results since his initial awkwardness is surely entirely expected in the circumstances of the action?

But who is true and who is false? I shan't spoil the intrigue by telling you. Sufficient to say that just as one appears black and the other white, the roles reverse - and even then we are not finished. In fact, as Higginson has it, we never are

The excellent rooftop Paris setting is by James Perkins with lighting by Dave Marsh and the whole scene completed by atmospheric piano, if only studio seats were more capacious, the evening would be a total delight.

"The Girl in the Yellow Dress" continues until Saturday 22 October

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole