Howard Barker’s play, The Castle, opens with the men returning from the crusades to find their fields neglected and their women astray. The men aren’t happy with their loss of authority and a savage battle of the sexes ensues. After living in harmony for 7 years, the women are thrown into turbulent times through the men’s anguish at their loss of authority and the audience feels every inch of that turbulence. This made for a wonderfully unsettling experience.
The play is well written though hard to follow at times. Despite being hard to follow, it’s hard to mark it down for this as the sheer energy of the play alone is a spectacle. The monologues are fast-paced and overwhelming but thankfully they are laced with humour.
Barker hit the mark between emotion and humour exceptionally well. It was far from a comedy but the comedic elements didn’t detract from the ferociousness of the play. Particularly humorous parts included the builder (played by Matthew Lyon) who is afraid of heights and a memorable discussion of Christ’s cock. On a side note, it’s probably not a play for anyone who squirms at the word c*nt. It is used throughout.
As the play progresses and each character slowly becomes more unhinged it’s believable. The play is well acted. For me, the performances of Skinner (Kate Tulloch) and Stucley (Anthony Cozens) were particularly good. Their monologues were delivered flawlessly and I felt their every word. I squirmed at their anguish, I laughed at their quips.
The Space provides an appropriate setting for this play. The intensity and unsettling nature of The Castle is aided by the intimate setting. I highly recommend going while you have the opportunity to see this play in such an intimate venue.
Overall the play was enjoyable. Did I know what was going on always? No, but it didn’t matter it was a triumph regardless.