Theatre review: Cross Purpose at King’s Head Theatre
Gripping production of Nobel laureate Albert Camus’ bleakly funny play
Watching this gripping production of Cross Purpose by Albert Camus, I almost sympathised with the murderous mother and daughter at its heart.
They live a hopeless existence running a dreary, mostly deserted guest house at the foot of a bleak valley – and are in the habit of bumping off their wealthier guests for a few extra pennies. Given their lot, I think I’d be driven to extremes.
It’s an entertaining premise, which Camus treats in quite unexpected ways in a darkly comic and thought-provoking play.
Unlike the guests, the production is full of life, remaining engaging and rarely sagging despite the Nobel laureate’s taste for drawn-out exchanges.
You may also want to watch:
Standing out among a consistently good cast, Jamie Birkett is excellent as daughter Martha; played with a kind of menacing charm, she is the cold-hearted driving force behind the crimes.
A fascinating tug-of-war ensues, with the mother (Christina Thornton) getting tired of all the killing – though more from the exertion required than any moral qualms. The standout scenes see her and Martha thoughtfully but very matter-of-factly discussing their crimes.
- 1 Harassment trial: MP Claudia Webbe 'threatened to send naked photos of victim to her kids'
- 2 Police cordon in place after Essex Road pub 'assault'
- 3 Hundreds of activists descend on north London incinerator demanding end to rebuild
- 4 Two rescued from fire in Islington maisonette block
- 5 Petrol station forecourts closed in Islington amid warning: 'Drafting in the army will not end fuel crisis'
- 6 'I was not jealous': MP Claudia Webbe denies harrasment charge
- 7 How some Islington tenants are losing their homes in a matter of minutes
- 8 Eidevall says Arsenal put 'pressure on themselves' to deliver in big games
- 9 Islington dog stars in film that will be shown at London Film Festival
- 10 Man killed in 'shooting' in north London
The staging is simple but effectively eerie: Martha’s ghost-white complexion, the grim manservant silently drifting on and off stage, the dim lighting and dust-covered furniture. Honestly, their victims really should have seen what was coming.
Matters come to a head when their long-lost son and brother returns after 20 years, convincingly played by David Lomax, all wide-eyed innocence. For no clear reason, he decides to keep his identity hidden after checking in unrecognised.
The play marches inexorably to its miserable conclusion, as any glimmers of hope are cruelly snuffed out. A bleak yet funny show that’s well worth a watch.
* Cross Purpose is at the King’s Head Theatre in Upper Street, N1, until November 11.