Off West End Review

The Sewing Group – The Royal Court

the sewing group

As the title may suggest, there is A LOT of sewing. And sewing is pretty serious stuff.

However, E. V Crowe’s play The Sewing Group, doesn’t take place at a middle-aged, WI gathering, instead we are transported to a rural village community in the 1700s. Two women sit in a bare, candlelit wooden room, cloaked in black gowns and silently sewing a canvas – not a sign of any kids beginner sewing machine around, just canvas. Moments later the scene blacks out.

Now another woman (C) has joined them from the next village, the women offer silent glances and the scene fades. The initial interactions between the three women are interrupted by complete blackouts and clavichord interludes. They are punctuatingly short with only single sentence dialogue.

It’s puzzling, and leaves you questioning who they are, how long have they been there and what is it for. The two women feel fairly content with their teal coloured thread, sewing the same stitches in perfect lines, until the newcomer suggests using red cotton, bigger stitches, and perhaps they make quilts instead of lines on a canvas.

The Sewing Group

It’s a clever stroke by Crowe, as the injection of ‘change’ creates an animosity amongst the group, tensions mount and frictions appear. All in the name of progress. It harks back to a simpler time without technology, analysis or even any real expression of self, but C is unable to embrace a simple way of life. She seeks achievement, acceptance and control.

Fiona Glascott is superb as new arrival C. She’s wonderfully lively in this inhibited group, perfectly displaying all the modern-day hang-ups we exhibit to get through day-to-day life ‘I don’t understand what’s wrong. This is a logical progression.’ Equally Jane Hazlegrove and Sarah Niles are greatly expressive as their parts rely heavily of extended silences and knowing glances.

Crowe has certainly presented a ball of threads for the audience to untangle, tease out and restring. I won’t reveal any spoliers but simply say that this is a very clever piece of new writing. Intriguing and beguiling. It will keep you guessing right until the end, as the threads are woven together to create an altogether very different tapestry.

The Sewing Group runs until Friday 23rd December at the Royal Court.

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