CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL

 

The Review - THEATRE by JAMIE WELHAM
Published: 7 February 2008  

What's Left Behind
What's Left Behind

A double take on rocky relationships

WHAT'S LEFT BEHIND/ MAMENSHKA
Lion and Unicorn Theatre

SATIRICAL portraits of middle-class marriage are well-trodden ground for playwrights and it seems that much of the inspiration for What’s Left Behind is gleaned from past offerings.

Originality is scant – imagine Evelyn Waugh set on the Northern line.
James (Edward Simpson) is a hapless suit who pines for his French mistress but never gets the chance to see her because he marches to the tune of his domineering, misanthropic wife Isy (Elizabeth Jee).
They are a picture of marital discord. Bitter and resentful, the charade of a relationship is only held together by fear of what might be lost – namely money and status.
The play is at its best during the comic interludes when a bumbling James has to negotiate the vagaries of the London network to make the tryst with his frou-frou femme fatale, Lourna.
Mamenshka is a much darker affair. It follows the story of Anthony James (Robert Rowe) – a one-time fat cat who has fallen on hard times. Clad in cardboard, and pleading with the audience to buy a Big Issue, a destitute Anthony recounts his downfall at the hands of a mythical prostitute called Mamenshka (Anita Clements).
A character assassination and sideways look at the sex industry, Mamenshka is really only a fantasy that exists in Anthony’s head.
The panoply of different women he imagines she might be is amusing, although the exotica promised by the phone booth calling-card does not quite square with the moonlighting Essex girl at the end of the line.
Anthony is driven mad by this unattainable image and phone booth indiscretion leads to his arrest, scandal and ultimate decline. Perhaps men should just give phone booths a wide berth, but the message is probably more profound – beware of false idols.