Marigolds and the Man
Brendan Deeds catches the play that cleans up
In the dismal days after a break-up, what do you do to ease the pain? Do you seek solace at the bottom of a bottle, or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s? Do you listen to The Carpenters Greatest Hits while thumbing through a photo album? Or do you, like the protagonist of Red Lemon’s new play, have conversations with your ex’s dog and get intimate with the marigolds she left behind?
Kissing Marigolds is a dark, daring and bawdy comedy which explores what happens when love goes wrong.
There are just four characters: Man, Dog, Woman, Friend. Broken-hearted, the man is haunted by the memory of his lover (played by Katie Richardson) who oozes cold sexuality as she struts the stage in a tight corset and a wig that would shock Marge Simpson.
She addresses both the man and the audience, holding each of us in her spell. Such, the play suggests, is the power of love and the power of memory.
In desperation, her spurned lover turns to Dial-A-Friend, a unique service which sends a nurse/therapist to act as friend to the loveless. Her first visit is one of the play’s many laugh out loud moments.
'Are you broken hearted?' she asks.
He looks at the floor as if yearning for the cold earth to open up and drag him down to the numbing relief of the tomb.
'Yes. Yes I am' he mumbles.
'Wonderful!' she exclaims with demonic glee.
This is typical of a production which uses a steady stream of gags to seduce the audience before it slips its scalpel under the skin to explore our messier emotions.
Like their previous plays Eleven Minutes (2005) and Tart (2006), Kissing Marigolds blends a variety of verbal wit, absurdist drama, Weimar-era cabaret, low farce and stimulating physicality.
We can see influences from Beckett to Rocky Horror. Whilst both had racy humour, Kissing Marigolds may prove too explicit and coarse for some more conservative theatre-goers.
The bravura of Patrick J O’Reilly’s script has flashes of Ortonesque wit and shares that playwright’s ability to hide biting cynicism and sharp psychodrama beneath a giddy froth of comedy. As actor, director and playwright, O’Reilly is a rising star.
Rosie McClelland’s ‘Dog’ was an audience favourite but Victoria Gleason delivers the play’s most captivating performance. As the ‘Friend’ she is beautiful, beguiling and unsettling - like a lullaby played slightly out of tune.
She pitches her performance on the manic side and at just the right moment eases up and shows us the twisted, wounded heart of the play’s real victim. It is a measured performance and it stays with you long after the hour is up.
Kissing Marigolds is a little nugget. Red Lemon explore the dark, sweaty corners of the soul and shine a light on the myriad shadows of the heart. It is smart, sexy and a little weird … just like the women who always break my heart and like them, have me coming back for more.