In 2015, soap characters are killed off at a rate of about one a week and same sex relationships are depicted in dramas almost as regularly. It is difficult to believe that, when The Killing of Sister George first appeared 50 years ago, it was regarded as mildly shocking. June Buckridge, played here with macho swagger by Sioned Jones, has been playing George in a radio soap much like The Archers for six years when the axe falls and her relationship with her partner Childie (Briony Rawle) is also on the rocks. The axe is wielded by a BBC exec, Mrs Mercy (Sarah Shelton giving a near-impeccable Margaret Thatcher impersonation) who also moves in on Childie. A clairvoyant in the Madam Arcati mould (Janet Amsden) is on hand to stir things up. We assume that June (always referred to as “George”) and Childie are a lesbian couple, but the writer Frank Marcus is coy about it and never spells it out (maybe the watchful eye of the Lord Chamberlain constrained him back in 1965) and there are hardly any displays of affection between the two in Scott le Cross’s production. George comes across as a sadistic, gin-swilling bully, Childie as a simpering parasite and it is very difficult to feel much sympathy for either as their shared world begins to unravel. Justin Savage’s one-room set is suitably shabby, giving a good period feel to the production. Jones’ performance builds as the play progresses, showing George’s torment upon realising that nothing in life can be taken for granted, nothing is forever. Projecting that message, the play still has some relevance, but it takes far too long to get to the point and, although the acting is decent throughout, it still comes across as something of a museum piece.
Performance date: 5 November 2015