(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/5.)
Plays change with time. When Caryl Churchill’s collaborative fantasy was first seen in 1994, it was regarded as bafflingly obscure. Aspects of it remain difficult but, watching the magnetic Maxine Peake in a magnificent Royal Exchange production for the Manchester international festival, it becomes clear that the play offers, among other things, a vision of climate catastrophe we can all understand.
In some ways, Churchill’s play is like a darker Midsummer Night’s Dream in that it shows a collision between the mortal and immortal worlds. The big difference is that Churchill’s skriker, a shape-shifting ancient fairy, is chillingly visible, unlike Shakespeare’s Puck, to the two teenage girls whom she haunts and pursues: Josie, institutionalised for killing a baby, and Lily, anxiously awaiting the birth of one.