Simon Callow is wholly unconvincing as a woman. But, in this tight and powerful one-man exploration of identity, that is entirely the point.
Every Tuesday, Pauline visits her elderly father to do household chores and take him to the supermarket. Desperate to connect with her father between the aisles and in the queues for the tills, Pauline is met with gruff disrespect and embarrassment. For her father much preferred things when his daughter used to be his son, Paul.
A translation of a French play, Tuesday at Tescos is a poignant and at times unsettling piece. Callow is convincing as the tortured Pauline: doing everything she can for a chance of her father’s acceptance; and burning with a fierce sense of pride in at last being able to be herself.
Throughout the monologue, he manages to express the character’s inner thoughts and emotions, breaking into joyful and exuberant dance at times as a celebration of Pauline’s emergence. These interludes are accompanied by a refrain from the piano, which – like Pauline’s own sense of self – is constantly being finely-tuned onstage.
These moments are brief and snuffed out quickly by the reality of her father’s discomfort. Callow also voices the widower’s part, allowing hints of grudging acceptance to glimmer, but most of the time expressing the character’s frustration at what his son has become. As Pauline, the bulk of Callow’s performance is therefore one of tragic despair and frustration; of a struggle for acceptance which she has to look elsewhere to receive.
Tuesday at Tescos is a brave and challenging piece for Callow; an opportunity of him to demonstrate his versatility after last year’s Shakespeare’s ‘greatest hits’ performance. With a powerful yet subtle performance which is both gripping and poignant, he proves he is at ease with the twists and tragedies of modern life as he is with those of the Bard.
Tuesday at Tescos runs from Aug 7-29 (not 8, 15 or 22) at 14:00 at Assembly Hall on the Mound. More details here.