To intrigue an audience with a character who never appears is an accomplishment. Frank Marcus, best known for The Killing of Sister George (1965), wrote strong, vibrant female roles, although not informed by feminist instincts. But this double bill of two of his one-act plays, last performed over 40 years ago, begins with The Window (1969), featuring three male characters.
Robert, peering sightlessly from his bed, employs helpers to spy on a woman opposite he once knew. She, the ghostly presence at the drama’s core, has moved on; Robert is trapped in a self-lacerating cycle, a daily reopening of emotional wounds. Daniel Simpson as the blind man oscillates between soft-voiced reverie and sudden bitter rage. Manning the binoculars, Paul Adeyefa’s reportage is cheerily humdrum, riven with insolence.
Director Rafaella Marcus (Frank’s granddaughter) injects both stillness and movement into the gloomily-lit melancholy, the set design a timeless depiction of bedsit claustrophobia.
Blank Pages (1972), a female monologue performed beguilingly by Megan Salter, initially offers a change of pace but the perkily humorous reminiscences turn to scarring encounters with men who, today, she would shame on social media. The painful expiry of youthful hope links the plays, imbuing a visceral resonance which elevates them beyond period constraints.