Wednesday, 19 December 2018

'Caroline, or Change' at The Playhouse

I saw 'Caroline, or Change' at Hampstead Theatre at the start of the year and, when it was announced that there'd be a short run at The Playhouse with largely the same cast, I quickly nabbed tickets. The play is set in Louisiana in 1963 and Caroline is a maid stuck forever in the basement doing the family washing. Her job and her family are her entire life, no other joy other than a daily cigarette and no apparent hope for the future. We meet Caroline's friend, also a maid but who goes to night school to better herself, and her daughter who is a follower of Martin Luther King and burning for a better future. But Caroline is stuck in her own rut.

This is a really powerful play with some great performances, with the first surprise coming when the washing machine comes to life and sings and dances and the radio is a '60s girl group with matching frocks and choreography. I knew this was going to happen but it was still an 'oh, what's happening' moment when they emerge from behind the scenes. It's great fun despite the seriousness of the play. The radio trio, of course, have lots of costume changes every time they come own stage and that's part of the fun. Caroline stays in her white uniform throughout, other than for one scene when she's going to church with her children and that's when she finally lets rip with all her pent-up emotion and frustrations and Sharon aims that directly at the audience. Wow!

I've seen Sharon in a few things over the years but this was a magnificent performance and that show-stopper really blew the roof off, the acting, her voice, the sheer emotion of the scene when she lets go and it all pours out was spectacular. Sharon has an amazing voice and she know how to use it. That performance ought to be recorded and shown at drama schools around the country.

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