Monday, June 01, 2015

Tuesdays at Tesco's

In many ways, it's a familiar story. An adult child continues to care for her elderly parent despite never receiving simple acknowledgement and acceptance of who she is. The adult child might have married out of the faith or chosen a profession against the parent's advice. The adult child might be gay. Whatever the circumstances, the elderly parent remains withholding, no matter how helpful the adult child is or how many sacrifices and compromises she makes.

Simon Callow
Photo: Carol Rosegg
In Tuesdays at Tesco's the adult child is transwoman Pauline. Pauline's father makes no secret of his disgust at her physical presentation, insists on calling her Paul, and stands as far away as possible when they do their weekly shopping at the titular Tesco's, a British grocery/department store.

Written by Emmanuel Darley (adapted and translated by Matthew Hurt and Sarah Vermande) and directed by Simon Stokes, Tuesday at Tesco's stars Simon Callow. While it's sort of a one-person show, Callow shares the stage with musician Conor Mitchell, who accompanies Pauline's periodic dance breaks, which are physical expressions of her emotions and personality. When not playing, Mitchell takes notes, slumps at the piano, and otherwise pulls focus. Together, the dances and Mitchell's presence add little and take away a lot. They would not be missed in a show that feels oddly long at 75 minutes.

Pauline's story is a simple one, so the power is in the telling. Darley/Hurt/Vermande's writing has some vivid moments. When Pauline talks about people constantly staring, you feel her lack of privacy and sense of being judged continuously. When she talks about her father's pointing out her stubble, you feel her pain at his ridicule. And when a friend of her father's treats her with complete respect and acceptance, you feel her deep pleasure.

However, Tuesdays at Tesco's is also painfully repetitious. While some of the repetition works, as in Pauline's frequent evocation of "As I am. Myself. Me" (and variations thereof), much of it just feels, well, repetitive. Despite the play's interesting subject and attempts at being meaningful and hard-hitting, it is actually a slight piece.

As a result, the evening is about Callow. I just couldn't buy him as a transwoman. When Pauline speaks about her father, and Callow switches briefly into his voice, Pauline's father feels real and three-dimensional in a way that Pauline never does. Callow's performance as Pauline always feels like a performance.

A story like Pauline's could and should be deeply moving. However, Tuesdays at Tesco's only occasionally achieves that effect.

(7th row; press ticket)


Unknown said...

Haven't seen the show, but wondering: is there any reason (in the text) for the role to be played by a male, non-trans actor? If not, seems kind of a wrong, missed opportunity.

Wendy Caster said...

No reason why it couldn't be a transwoman, and many reasons why it should be. Political and artistic.

But would the show be produced without Simon Callow's name?

The only famous transwoman actor is Laverne Cox, and she's probably too glam. Still, I'd much, much rather see her in the role.

Unknown said...

For me at least, a play about trans issues with a real trans actor (famous or not) would be more of a draw. But I see your point re: Callow. Although the show doesn't seem to be lighting the box office on fire, as comps are fairly easy to come by.