HOSTILE SOCIETY

Paul Anderson, review of My Heart’s a Suitcase by Clare McIntyre (Royal Court), Tribune, 23 February 1990

My Heart’s a Suitcaseis about fear and greed. Two women in their early thirties, Chris (Frances Barber) and Hannah (Sylvestre le Touzel), mates from university, arrive in a run-down flat in Brighton for a weekend. The flat belongs to Colin, once Chris’s boyfriend; now a businessman, he frequents the restaurant where she is a waitress.
Chris, recently badly scared by a young man who pulled a gun on her in a railway carriage, is neurotic and restless. She wants more cash but hates the rich. Hannah doesn’t care about money: she works as a ceramics teacher, lives in a housing association flat, and keeps a stiff upper lip about her multiple sclerosis.
The play is a brilliantly written comparison of the women, with four other characters in small roles. Two of these are naturalistic – a tramp (Fred Pearson), who has been dossing in the flat, and Tunis, Colin’s wife from Greece, who turns up to do some serious shopping (an excellent cameo from Anna Patrick). The other two are imaginary figures. The man from the train periodically appears to plague Chris, and for much of the play Luggage, a female patron saint of coping, sits on the stage, occasionally making conversation or carrying bags for the others.
Luggage is unnecessary and intrusive, and there are times when the pace of the play flags disappointingly. But otherwise this exploration of how we respond to a hostile society should do much to reinforce Mclntyre’s reputation as an original talent. It should also advance the careers of Barber and le Touzel, both of whom are superb. In short, catch it if you can.
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