(Dominic Cavendish's article appeared in the Telegraph, August 2, 2009.)
The Girlfriend Experience at the Young Vic, review
This beautifully judged production of Alecky Blythe's 'verbatim drama' The Girlfriend Experience features superbly well-rounded performances. Rating * * * *
Punters forced to turn away empty-handed from the long queue to see the Donmar’s astounding revival of A Streetcar Named Desire – for which availability is now restricted to returns and day-seats – could do a lot worse than head south of the river to the Young Vic. Looked at from one angle, Alecky Blythe’s riveting “verbatim drama”, The Girlfriend Experience, presents us with Blanche du Bois’s modern-day British counterparts: women of a certain age who have washed up in a less than salubrious part of town and whose vulnerability is palpable despite the airy bravado of their uninhibited chatter.
Of course, the analogy only takes us so far: a basement brothel in Bournemouth is a world away from a two-room flat in Forties’ New Orleans. The women Blythe has eavesdropped on — recording and editing their conversation then relaying it, word for word, via a meticulous procedure that involves headphones and intense concentration on the part of the cast — aren’t at crisis-point, either. Selling their bodies has been a means of saving themselves.
And there’s no indomitable Stanley Kowalski figure to puncture the pretensions of their faux homely set-up. Wonderfully alive to subtle registers of seedy relief, naked gratitude and unearned cockiness, Alex Lowe fleshes out a passing parade of male clients, none of whom, with one viciously impatient exception, pose much threat to the women’s equilibrium . . .