Definitely The Bahamas

by Martin Crimp

Definitely The Bahamas had 3 performances almost 4 years ago (between the 10th of October 2014 and the 25th of October 2014) at Riverside Arts Centre

Our entry in the October One Act Drama Festivals 2014. A dark, absurdist comedy and social parody set in the 1980s.

Martin Crimp often writes about hum drum people in hum drum situations, but nothing is as it seems - he explores the spiritual ugliness under the civilised veneer.

Crimp peels back the layers of social behaviour to reveal the horrors and void beneath contemporary life. Beneath the surface Crimp implies a sub-text with a darker meaning, thereby creating a growing atmosphere of tension, even menace.

When you add to this his edgy, rhythmic and often funny dialogue, it’s little wonder he was hailed as the new Pinter.

Crimp’s play is a product of the ‘eighties, exploring the social landscape of Thatcherism and expertly reproducing the nouveau riche and go-getting types of Thatcherite Britain. He writes about unsettling themes and rarely encourages audiences to identify with any of the characters. Instead he challenges them to exercise a certain detachment and to think.

THE PLAY (originally written for radio) Definitely The Bahamas takes a darkly comic view of two people so wrapped up in denial as to be completely insulated from self-knowledge, even when their own words expose them completely to the audience.

A sad, retired couple Milly and Frank gossip to a friend about the achievements of their son Michael, who we eventually deduce is a sexist bigot: a point amply confirmed by the couple’s Dutch female lodger. Their son Michael and his wife Irene have lived in apartheid South Africa whose recent history is a dark backdrop to the story. What Martin Crimp pins down so well is the paranoia and xenophobia that lurked behind middle class life in the late 1980s and the way doting parents excuse and sometimes even absorb their off-spring’s dubious values.

The play starts off as a social parody and gives way to something more unsettling. It portrays a sharp understanding of a certain kind of English fascism and becomes an intriguing detective story in which the audience has to fill in the gaps and we are never quite sure what really is going on.

Crimp creates an atmosphere of nagging unease, suggesting that contrary to Milly’s belief, threat and danger aren’t just something associated with foreign climes but may in fact be manifest a good deal closer to home.

The play relies heavily on producing highly effective characterisations. Milly & Frank have been married a long time; she is an anxious chatterer; he lapses into melancholic abstraction. On the one hand they enjoy material comfort and on the other they suffer emotional discomfort and fear. Their brittle conversations are civilised but underneath there is tension and unease. They are hollow people.

The actors need to develop a believable partnership with naturalistic playing and be able to portray the anguish of the ordinary.

Both are wilfully blind to the evidence that their daughter-in-law is deeply unhappy and their idealised son is trying it on with the au pair. They believe their son is wonderful and that every woman loves him. A chance photograph of Michael sitting smiling on the sofa reveals a darker story.

Original

Milly - Frankie Godliman

She is smart and well preserved. Snobbish and a garrulous gossip, her moods and behaviour are confused and blundering. She habitually uses the wrong words with Freudian slips, double entendres and inanities, eg “Sex wasn’t being rammed down our throats all the time” She dislikes and mistrusts people and exhibits bigoted opinions. Milly idolises her only son Michael and almost wills herself to believe he is a ‘romantic at heart’. She delivers some very funny lines with deadly seriousness.

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Frank - Keith Bollands

He has long since ceased to listen to Milly’s constant prattle and zones out. The couple are not quite in sync and bicker over minor details as their memories differ (hence the title of the play). His detachment, and subjugation to his wife are a source of much of the play’s humour. He relaxes when Milly leaves the room and rambles on about his son to their guest. Frank’s world has shrunk since his retirement so he relishes his son’s infrequent visits.

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Marijke - Christin Prustel

The couple’s attractive, taciturn, rather sulky Dutch language au pair. Midway through the play something that had been sub-textual is suddenly and dramatically explicitly articulated by Marijke. She takes a different view of the unseen son and it emerges that Michael is not the charming romancer of his parents’ imagination but a predatory sadist trying to force himself on the student who masochistically remains with the family. In her highly dramatic monologue, delivered with thinly veiled anger and disgust, she demolishes Michael. Marijke the victim drowned out by surburban banalities finally finds her voice and pulls the rug on suburban smugness. Her long outburst gives her the chance to make it clear that Michael has sexually harassed and humiliated her and had even uttered threats like “My wife was raped; I know the game”.

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Guest (Woking performance) - Linda Russell

Non-speaking. Required to sit and listen to Milly’s ramblings, drink tea and look decorative.

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Guest (Spelthorne performance) - Gillian Smithies

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Director - Judith Dolley

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Stage Manager - Liz Thomas

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Set Design and construction - John Godliman

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Continuity - Jill Payne

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Sound - Ian Santry

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Lighting - Simon Waller

Bruzaud Challenge Cup for Winning Play Woking Drama Festival - 2014
Spelthorne Cup - Overall Winners of Festivl Spelthorne & Runnymede Drama Festival - 2014
Best Actress Award Frankie Godliman Spelthorne & Runnymede Drama Festival - 2014
Jane Walters Award for Best Director Judith Dolley Spelthorne & Runnymede Drama Festival - 2014