By Mark Bolsover
In the close, intimate, and beautifully decorated space of C Cubed, HookHitch Theatre deliver an intriguing and stylish noir period piece inspired by the poetry of Sara Teasdale and an iconic 1942 photograph by I. Russell Sorgl.
Focussing on the main character, novice photo-journalist Robert Maloney’s photograph of the suicide of the Divorcée of it’s title, and the events leading up to her death (and thus to the photograph itself), in essence, ‘The Despondent Divorcee’ is an examination of the nature and ethics of storytelling. Casey Jay Andrews and Nathan Froad’s ambitious, fragmentary, and fast-paced script plays on the conventions of the noir detective thrillers contemporary to its 1940s setting, as well as those of journalism itself, constructing its narrative from the disparate and conflicting perspectives of the denizens of the Kendrick Hotel: the last residence of the Divorcée, and the site of her death.
The show shifts subtly and ambiguously into these perspectives, each of them framed through Maloney’s present tense, first person retrospective account as he tries desperately to reconstruct the story of the life (and the death) which will make his name as a journalist. As such, the audience is given only fleeting, fragmented snap-shots of the lives and (fraught) relationships of the characters, and are left to try to piece together the larger context and narrative. And this is, ultimately, the show’s strength, as it meditates on the nature, and final impossibility, of ever truly, completely telling the story of a life.
The structure of the piece is complex, but the company maintains both energy and interest well. The frequent scene transitions are handled smoothly, as is the integration of accomplished live jazz musical performances by the cast. The period costumes here are also very well done, though some of the voice work and accents could do with a little more work and polishing.
Ambitious and complex, but, overall, well-executed, Hookhitch’s ‘The Despondent Divorcee’ is a thought-provoking examination of what is omitted in social and media performances and portrayals of a life. A story can never hope to finally embody the totality of a life or of an event.—The story of a life is only ever the confluence of partial, fragmented perspectives. A life will always be an incompletely told, abortive story, outwith the construction of the beautiful image.
The Despondent Divorcée, C Cubed (Riddle’s Close) 31 July–25 August (excluding the 8th and 9th) 19.00 (1hr)