ABC of emotions, power and energy

Oldham Coliseum
Oldham Chronicle
17th September 2015
ABC of emotions, power and energy

Reporter: Paul Genty
Date online: 17 September 2015

THE ALPHABET GIRL, Oldham Coliseum Studio, to Saturday

IT’S quite a culture shock, moving from Tuesday night’s mightily impressive but emotionally cold epic, “Dead Dog in a Suitcase”, to this one-woman, one-hour, all-emotion tour de force.

Writer and director Renny Krupinski’s piece about three generations of screwed-up women from the same family is performed by local actress Kaitlin Howard — usually a regular in the Coliseum’s famous pantomimes, and here stretching her acting muscles to the limit.

The play has been around for a while and has already won several awards, including Manchester Theatre Awards and Manchester Fringe trophies. It also recently had a successful run in Edinburgh. But this is its first visit to the Coliseum Studio, where it has shared a residency with Krupinski’s other recent work, “Katie Crowder”.

Krupinski’s theme is a simple one, but one in which the audience fills in lots of the gaps, making it even more powerful. Between the wars Maisie begat Lily, who later begat Ivy.

Maisie’s louche attitude to family life, sex and relationships messed up her daughter, who in turn passed her prejudices and obsessions to her daughter, who goes out with (lots of) men according to the alphabetical order of their names to try to make some sense of her obsessions and fears, hence the title.

There is a lot to take in during the three monologues: broken relationships, emotional abandonment, very bad parental examples; even the feeding of gin and blackcurrant to a three-year-old — it’s that kind of family.

Howard makes three convincingly different women; outwardly bright and businesslike, seemingly sex-obsessed Lily; randy and uncaring Maisie and utterly misplaced Ivy, for whom getting back to some sort of track would be something of a miracle.

Krupinski doesn’t pass judgment on the trio — their problems are clear enough to see. He approaches them instead with a cautious goodwill evident in the writing, and gives each one consideration and time — and while it’s time to put themselves even farther out of mainstream comprehension, nonetheless this is entertaining material, delivered with power and energy.