Fringe Review

The Killing Of Sister George – London Theatre Workshop

In the quiet town of Applehurst, Sister George is doing her daily rounds on her motorbike, imparting her wisdom and loving advice to the local villagers, until she unexpectedly meets a devastating end that is set to rock the world of humble Applehurst.

In a fictional BBC radio soap opera, reminiscent of The Archers, ratings are falling and the disreputable behaviour of one of the cast members off set, ultimately sees her killed off to save the show in the cutthroat world of entertainment.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Frank Marcus’ play The Killing of Sister George and it still feels as relevant today as it did then. With a society fixated on gossip headlines broadcasted in the media, we are as preoccupied with the goings-on of entertainment stars as we were then. We watch as the world around this radio star crumbles and we become witness to the aftermath of a brutally harsh industry.

Poor June Buckridge, played vibrantly by Sioned Jones, has devoted 6 years to the BBC show. She is a popular character and often she embodies the role at home, being known as ‘George’ to friends around her. Her years of loyal dedication is repaid by the news she is to be axed from the show, when ma’am-esque BBC Exec, Mrs Mercy Croft (Sarah Shelton), arrives to deliver the news.

Sarah Shelton (Mrs Mercy Croft), Sioned Jones & Briony Rawle, The Killing of Sister George (c) Ashley Carter

Despite the wholesome, godly nature of Sister George, what we find in real life is a gin drinking, temper tantruming and domineering woman who is often cruel to ‘flat mate’ Childie (Briony Rawle). At the root of it all and despite a strong front, George is insecure and projects her anxieties in the form of jealousy and aggression against Childie. A lot of ambiguity surrounds the relationship of George and Childie, it’s often implied they’re partners although never explicitly referred to as so. When the play was first staged in 1965, it was still quite risqué to portray lesbian relationships on stage and Marcus was considered to be one of the first.

Rawle plays the role with great vulnerability and a childish quality. Although she appears to be a victim, she has remained with George for a long time and is very quick to bad mouth her the minute Mercy Croft shows her some attention and fondness. She equally winds up George with mentions of past lovers and the boy downstairs alluding to the idea she’s perhaps not as innocent as she seems.

It’s wonderful seeing a cast entirely of women, especially such a talented troupe who play the roles with real heart and intensity. Director Scott Le Crass presents this dark comedy with great sensitivity and manages to secure our sympathy for George as we watch her unravelling result in a dramatic finale.

The Killing of Sister George runs until 21st November at the London Theatre Workshop.

(Photo courtesy of Ashley Carter)

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