(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/12.)
What determines our character? Nature or nurture? Genetic inheritance or social environment? It is an age-old debate, and Alice Birch now adds to it with this startling theatrical triptych about three generations of mothers and daughters. Whatever my doubts about Birch’s conclusion, the play is odd, arresting and, in Katie Mitchell’s immaculate production, highly original in its form.
Birch’s progress as a writer has been fascinating to watch. She delivered a short, sharp shock in 2014 with Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again which was a subversive, playful piece calling for revolution in everything from sexual relationships to the workplace. In 2015, the Orange Tree brought us an earlier Birch play, Little Light, about sibling rivalries, that suffered from too much withheld information. Since then Birch has written a polemical piece about porn, We Want You to Watch; the admired Ophelias Zimmer, which I missed; and the recent film Lady Macbeth, which transposed a Russian novel to Victorian England and got a five-star review from Peter Bradshaw.