Theatre Review: The Killing of Sister George at The Arts Theatre

The rocky world of soap opera stardom is the subject of this modern-day revival

Frank Marcus’ play was considered the height of edgy drama in the 1960s when it came to the West End, starring Beryl Reid and Susannah York, with its shock value and Sapphic elements.

But when dusted off for a modern audience at the Arts Theatre, it comes across more than a little tired and dated.

Iqbal Khan’s production seeks to revive the story of the dysfunctional relationship between butch, abusive sexual predator George and Childie, her immature, ditzy younger live-in lover.

Meera Syal is George, the actor in a countryside soap who plays a much-loved kindly district nurse Sister George.

Due to George’s violent and erratic behaviour off camera, which would shock her lovable on-screen character, the soap are planning to kill her off. Her paranoia and frustration lead her to rely ever more heavily on the bottle and abuse and humiliate further her long suffering partner Childie.

Syal stomps butchly about to good effect, although we have little sympathy for her character’s plight. Helen Lederer gives an over the top performance as George’s friend, a colourful, quirky clairvoyant from next door.

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But Belinda Lang is the star of the show as Mrs Mercy, the representative from the BBC who comes to deliver the fateful news to George.

Hysteria over soap stars and confusion between art and reality may remain a modern-day reality, but unfortunately the play as a whole now feels sadly dated. But it is worth a look perhaps as an anachronistic sign of the views and clich�s of the time.

* The Killing of Sister George is running at The Arts Theatre, in Great Newport Street, WC2, until Saturday, October 29.