Ivy and Joan are both leaving home but they inhabit two, separate, short plays by James Hogan.
In the first play, ‘Ivy’ we are in a staff break room in a northern seaside hotel; a place of utilitarian wipe-clean surfaces and tea-urns. There Ivy (Lynne Miller) is seeing out her last day, after 40 years of work in the same hotel running the Cocktail Bar. Ivy clings. She clings to the past and she clings to the hotel. She is chaperoned by Victor (Jack Klaff) who has time off from serving the wedding guest upstairs to make sure, in his gruff way, that Ivy leaves peaceably. As words tumble from Ivy we learn how she has over played her hand in her petty squabbles with a younger, more flirtatious rival. However, it is the story of her past glories and brief romance that are most evocative. Ivy is clearly an impossible woman to work with, deluded about her lover returning, but canny and noble in her certainty just the same.
In ‘Joan’ that sense of certainty seemed lacking. Joan and Eric (again Miller and Klaff) have returned from a holiday in Venice. Joan is poetic, artistic and mentally ill. Eric is a crumpled English teacher pacing round the suedette chairs of a comfortable but small flat. Joan can’t help tormenting Eric, with the story of her platonic connection with a suave Italian Dottore, by quoting her poetry and reminisces. Though Joan’s writing is evocative the sense of truth or history in this crumbling marriage is missing.
Jack Klaff brings a brittle dry humour to his role as Victor in ‘Ivy’ and is given an evocative moment as Eric in ‘Joan’. However, the central performance is by Lynne Miller as the two title characters. In ‘Ivy’ she gives an impressive and utterly compelling performance. Whereas in ‘Joan’ restricted physically by her condition and emotionally by her husband the impact is lessened.
The pressure of any double bill is the need to find the right balance; so that we appreciate the parallels and enjoy the contrasts. Sadly as the contrasts were harder to find and the parallels so clearly defined what you are left with at the end of the evening is the distinct feeling that ‘Ivy’ is by far the better play.