In 1927 Ethel Cotton wrote a correspondance course in conversation. In 12 easy lessons she promised a fascinating new way to win poise, charm and personality. Nigel & Louise use this book to provoke a conversation between this woman of the past and us now. What conversation will we have ? Will we win poise charm and personality ? Will we feel reborn into the world with a new understanding of ourselves and others ? Or will we leave feeling more alone than we have ever felt ?
Lesson No. 7
Discussing Books and Plays
“Do not admit the plays you see have no effect on you. No matter what it is, you should feel something definite about every play you see.
Differences of opinion should, of course, always be politely expressed.”
‘Fascinating, brilliantly performed, hilarious’ Catherine Love, Exeunt
‘Standing amid piles of suitcases and packing crates, a ‘fog’ swirling in the spotlit darkness of the theatre’s brick-lined gloom, Barrett delivers Ethel Cotton’s pearls of wisdom accompanied by a soundscape of increasing discordance and the slapping tide, as if we’re missionaries on some chilly dock about to embark for the colonies and he’s arming us with the weapons of mass civilization.
But this inventive solo piece is more than just a satire on the casual racism, misogyny and presumptions of universality intrinsic to Ethel’s imperial worldview; it is an astute dissection of how we interact with one another and the compromises we make in servitude to our social conventions. Key to its success is Barrett’s utterly beguiling performance. And there’s gin and tonic for everyone. How very civilized.’
‘A Conversation, created around The Ethel Cotton Course in Conversation, is an entertaining, critical, endearing performance from two of the most important voices in the London art scene. Beneath the surface lurks a morass of issues all tied up with the notions of class, race, and entitlement that still haunt us. A biting and deeply complex work A Conversation shines a light into the dark places in our seemingly tidy sitting rooms and shows us the grime there.’ What’s On Stage
‘It’s a trapdoor into our colonial and post-colonial nightmares’ John Boursnell. Exeunt
‘Incredibly inventive, as a piece of solo theatre it really pushes the boundaries of the genre with great success. The audience is as much as part of the play as Barrett is on stage. A provocative, expertly crafted, strikingly unique and engrossing piece of theatre.’
***** What’s Peen Seen