Reviews Bristol Published 25 March 2017

Review: Escaped Alone at the Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic ⋄ 22 - 26 March 2017

Escaped Alone x 4: Rosemary Waugh provides yet another review of Escaped Alone.

Rosemary Waugh
Escaped Alone at the Bristol Old Vic. Photo: Johan Persson.

Escaped Alone at the Bristol Old Vic. Photo: Johan Persson.

There’s no need for you to read this review. It’s the fourth to appear on Exeunt of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone and you can read what other people already had to say about it here, here, and here. It premiered at the Royal Court; returned to the Royal Court; headed to Brooklyn and back to the UK. I arrive un-fashionably late to the party as James Macdonald’s production finishes its tour with five nights at the Bristol Old Vic.

Adding my two pence to the criticism collection is made more unnecessary not by the amount of reviews already on this website, but by the fact Andrzej Lukowski on Time Out artfully summarised exactly what I would have said about it in his final two (lovely) paragraphs. I haven’t discovered another that even comes close to capturing the same sentiment, but I have found those that went the other way and thoroughly disliked the 50-minute vision of Armageddon in suburbia.

It’s Saturday, and I’m behind with work, so I’m tempted to just say: read Lukowski’s review, that’ll serve you well. And it’s not just the ticking clock that is pushing me towards that sentence, it’s also the impossibility of trying to describe watching a play that just feels so right. Explaining ‘what does it mean’ in words is similar to explaining what a ballet dancer’s leap into the air ‘means’ when your brain understands it not in words, but in images and feelings.

There’s such class and slickness to Escaped Alone – both in text and in this production’s design by Miriam Buether – that it makes most other things on stage seem embarrassingly bloated and flat-out boring. There’s a sophistication to the enterprise, a confidence in not waving endless toys in front of the audience’s face to keep them entertained. Churchill’s play has all the cleverness of a Tom Stoppard work, but instead of over brimming with ideas, jokes and philosophies, it strips away the layers to reveal the glowing core at the centre of it all.

Escaped Alone is easily described as a play about the end of times. Yet watching it once a month would be the perfect antidote to any gnawing sense of dread and doom. It is a brilliant, hilarious, compassionate work and one that makes me hope it doesn’t all end just yet because I’d like to stick around to see a few more Caryl Churchill plays.

That’s all I have to say. Now you can go read Time Out or watch the football.

Escaped Alone is on at the Bristol Old Vic until 26th March 2017. Click here for more details. 

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Rosemary Waugh

Rosemary is a freelance arts and theatre journalist, who regularly writes for Time Out and The Stage.

Review: Escaped Alone at the Bristol Old Vic Show Info


Directed by James Macdonald

Written by Caryl Churchill

Cast includes Linda Bassett, Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham, June Watson

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