A Morality Tale from Moscow
“I’m so relieved said no Russian ever!”
Roxy Cook directs her play which has won the prestigious Theatre 503 International Playwriting Award at Theatre 503, a venue where I am never disappointed. A Woman Walks Into a Bank is set in Moscow in 2018 after the success and partying of the Football World Cup and where there was a better feeling in the summer.
Roxy Cook’s writing has rhythmic repetition of the title phrase and subsequently some others, giving the play a poetic quality but feeling surreal. The play is written in the third person and the three actors speak it and act out what is happening. David Allen’s set appears covered on the walls with patterned carpet runner from which apertures open hiding surprising props.
It is a fast moving script with many short sentences and interjections filling the initial scenes. The plot is that the old woman (Giulia Innocenti) lives with her cat Sally in a flat and is developing dementia whereby she cannot remember where she is or how she got there. The ambitious young man that she meets in the bank (Sam Newton), maybe a self styled bank manager, makes his career out of selling high interest loans to, often vulnerable, customers. Keith Dunphy plays a debt collector and you can work out the rest of the plot for yourself.
What makes this play special is the exact and oddball nature of the writing and the amazing delivery by the three actors who are word perfect in a complex script. We are immersed in the old woman’s world and even that of her cat Sally whom she forgets to feed and who has to fend for herself via an open window and a balcony leap. Both Innocenti and Newton will mimic the actions of the cat.
The energy of all three actors is eye boggling as the story is delivered with banter type lines, sparking off each other. There is a fun ballet sequence in the dark. Sinister music heralds the entrance of the Debt Collector. In the woman’s flat, her phone rings repeatedly and she never answers it. Roxy Cook’s play may be absurdist but I felt the menace of the ever ringing phone, and, worse the eventual ringing at the doorbell.
I was starting to pale towards the end of the first act but things livened at the very beginning of the second act, which is six months later and December, into a roller coaster of life-changing events.
The play can be seen as a moral story on the inequity of capitalism but the author’s summary in a late scene is this, “You see Russia isn’t one of these countries that holds you by the hand.
It throws you in at the deep end like a father teaching his son to swim
Says Go on, show me what you’ve got, fight for yourself because no-one else will.”
A Woman Walks Into a Bank
Written and Directed by Roxy Cook
Director: Roxy Cook
Designer: David Allen
Movement Design: Sam Hooper
Lighting Designer: Joe Price
Composer and Sound Designer: Hugh Sheehan
Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with an interval
Booking to 9th December 2023