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Blue Heart (Heart's Desire; Blue Kettle)


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A: Caryl Churchill Pf: 1997, Bury St Edmunds Pb: 1997 G: 2 dramas, each in 1 act S: (1) Brian and Alice's kitchen; (2) Public places, Derek and Enid's flat, Vanes' house, geriatric ward, England, 1990s C: (1) 3m, 4f, extras; (2) 2m, 6f(1) Heart's Desire. Brian and his wife Alice (about 60) are awaiting the return after many years of their 35-year-old daughter Susy from Australia. After a few moments of dialogue, the scene keeps ‘rewinding’ and beginning again, sometimes as an exact repetition, sometimes as a pared-down version, but usually progressing further into variant developments: they converse with Brian's sister Maisie; sometimes their alcoholic son (30) interrupts; another time a horde of children rush round the room. When the doorbell rings, two gunmen burst in and kill them all. Thereafter the doorbell heralds the arrival of: Susy herself; a young Australian woman; an official; a 10-foot-tall bird; nobody; Susy twice more. Finally, the play restarts and ends with the first line. (2) Blue Kettle. Derek (40), adopted as a baby, meets his real mother Mrs Plant (late fifties). He then meets his real mother Mrs Oliver (over 60). Talking to his partner Enid, it becomes clear that he is deceiving four different women into believing they gave him up for adoption. His next victim Mrs Vane (seventies) was married when her son was adopted. Mrs Oliver secretly visits Derek at his home. Miss Clarence (80) was an Oxbridge don, when she had her son. Derek and Enid are invited to the Vanes' house, and Enid blurts out that Derek is not Mrs Vane's son, but she refuses to believe this. Derek visits his real mother in a geriatric ward. Enid is concerned that Derek is not making any money out of his confidence trick, and he suggests that they might blackmail his father, a journalist who made one or more of his ‘mothers’ pregnant. Mrs Plant and Mrs Oliver meet and realize that they are both supposedly Derek's biological mother. Derek tells a distraught Mrs Plant that he met her son in Indonesia, but that he died. Throughout the piece, the words ‘blue’ and ‘kettle’ are interspersed randomly in the dialogue, until in the final scene, both characters speak almost entirely in abbreviations (‘bl’, ‘ket’) and finally in letters (b, k, t, l).Always playful, Churchill here comes close to reviving absurdist theatre. Both pieces deal with the return of a child to the parent, one genuine but superficial; the other false but moving. In Heart's Desire the tensions and trivial exchanges that characterize the common domestic experience of waiting for one's ‘heart's desire’ are reflected in constant repetition and break out into surreal events from frustration at the tedium. In Blue Kettle what could form the basis of a naturalistic piece is deconstructed by the insertion of ‘blue’ and ‘kettle’ in the dialogue. That characters' speeches still remain intelligible indicates the emptiness of communication, even in the acute emotional experience of encountering one's supposed son after some 40 years of separation.

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Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Caryl Churchill (b. 1938) English dramatist


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