St Albans’ Company of Ten’s tall story of ageing

IF ever there was a play of two halves, it is Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, currently being performed by the Company of Ten in the Abbey Theatre Studio.

While the first act introduces the three women of the title, their true identities do not emerge until the second – and in my view infinitely more riveting – act of the play.

Three Tall Women, played out on a raised stage in the Studio which is very effective, is a challenging play for director, performers and audience alike.

Certainly there is little in the first act to make you warm to the characters but then Albee admitted it was autobiographical and described it as a kind of exorcism of his own personal circumstances which were far from happy as he grew to adulthood.

But taken as a searingly honest look at the ageing process and how life so rarely turns out as we plan it, the play is perceptive and honest.

And by the second act, when it becomes apparent that the three women are one and the same person at various stages of their lives, it is much easier to relate to them and understand why their lives turned out the way they did.

Written by a man, Three Tall Women is directed by a man, the very talented Ian Rowe whose performance as Dionysus in The Bacchae was one of the highlights of last year’s Company of Ten season.

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He has clearly gone to great lengths to get under Albee’s skin and interpret the playwright’s view on how attitudes change at different stages of life.

Ian is helped by a very good cast in what is a demanding three-hander for all the actresses but particularly Margaret Metcalf in the role of A, the oldest of the three women who could be 91 but may be 92.

The role requires Margaret to capture the frail state of A, yet keep her short of being too doolally because in the second act she is the same woman but infinitely more perceptive as she and B, another fine performance from Julie Grant, impart to C – Emma Turner’s feisty younger woman – what the future holds.

David Adams as the only other character walks on as Boy – clearly Albee himself – and never says a word but his presence electrifies the play.

Three Tall Women is a many layered play which is one of those Studio productions by the Company of Ten that stays with you after the actors have taken their bows.

It runs until Saturday and any remaining tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.

Madeleine BURTON