Written by Kieron Monks
21 Thursday 21st January 2010

I'm looking through you

Talya (Lucinda Holloway), the play's emotional centre, is a vain and naïve young woman. We first meet her preening as the bombs drop. Her home is a shrine to childish romance, wall to wall candles, trashy books and a never-glimpsed portrait of some notional suitor. The extent of her silliness is shown by a bizarre relationship with her pregnant sister Raneen (Beatrice Curnew). "You promised to look after me! You don't love me! You want to abandon me!" she splutters in one of several pantomime outbursts.

Raneen, by contrast, is patient, rational and immune to romance. There are good reasons for this - going beyond a disfiguring facial scar. She somehow tolerates Talya's infuriating obsessions, until a handsome soldier walks into the picture. This is the cue for a carnival of pain as feelings and shinbones are shredded with gross abandon. Edhem (Tim Crowther) toys with the lonely women, displaying ever-increasing callousness with every passing drama. The eventual violence is as inevitable as it is sad.

Heated exchange

Sarah Grochala's script is as filthy as the characters' vests, but successfully conveys the impression of people struggling to cope under inhuman pressure. Bastardly as he is, Edhem's too-good-to-be-true spiels will bring a smile to anyone who's been on the receiving end of a Casanova routine. A special mention must go to some superbly aggressive sound effects, which never allow the audience to get too comfortable. A surprising and unusual story, with involving performances from a young cast.Sarah at the Amnesty awards

Interview with Sarah Grochala

You described this play as Bridget Jones meets Welcome to Sarajevo. Is this not an uneasy combination?

Very uneasy. But I try to just show events without prescribing a meaning. I grew up loving plays where one minute someone would commit suicide and the next everyone was having a party. Death and humour go well together. I don't want to give people too easy a ride.

This and your most recent play, S27, are both set in war-zones. What is that attracts you to these environments?

Well in this case I wanted to show the characters' extremes. The absurdity of their feelings and priorities in the chaos of conflict. It's difficult for a play to give a real representation of a war-zone, but it is an interesting context to put characters in.

They are certainly extreme. Were you intending to satirise love and relationships?

SG: I wanted to mock the culture of self-help books. All those books and magazines that preach life changing moments as a solution to all our problems. Life doesn't depend on these influences and we're fools for taking them seriously.

So tell me about some good influences on your work?

Well, Ibsen obviously (The play is loosely based on Ibsen's Hedda Gabler). I especially like him since the Norwegian Ibsen society gave me an award for Waiting For RomeoThe mysterious Edhem

You also won the Amnesty International 'protect the human' award. All your work seems to have been well received lately. Do you take the critics' views to heart?

Well it was wonderful to win the Amnesty prize; it meant so much to me. I didn't expect anything but the play won the biggest possible award. The most important thing is it allows me to keep writing.

Is British theatre suffering from a younger generation raised on Xbox and Sky?

I think theatre likes to feel sorry for itself, but its as popular as it ever was. I saw a statistic that on average a British person attends more cultural events than Italians (take that Giancarlo). There is a tremendous amount of talent coming through so the future's safe. People will always enjoy plays. They give you something different to TV.

As part of your busy schedule, you are the literary director for the Widsith production company. Have you unearthed any gems?

We have some very promising young writers and directors, but we are still looking for that perfect project for us to develop next.

So you are a writer, producer, student and actress. What are you looking at for the future?

Well, acting isn't something I'm completely comfortable with. It feels much more like a job than writing. Writing is my passion. I bury myself in solitude and don't come out until I have a play. In the short-term, I'll be working around the S27 tour, before spending a few months in Cambodia looking at the effects of the Khmer Rouge. I've spent long enough writing about war-zones, I need to experience one for myself.

Waiting For Romeo is showing at the Pleasance Theatre until 1 Feb.

Dangerous liaisons

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