Shadow Box is a beautiful, eloquent play, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1977. It tackles the theme of dying, using a collage of different characters facing death, but of course it embraces many themes and one can reflect upon the concepts which emerge for months after seeing it.
Directed by Kim Hardwick, The Shadow Box is a demanding, dramatic and intense two hours (including interval) in the company of some ordinary people and their ordinary lives and families. What makes them extraordinary and compelling company, however, is that three are approaching the sharp end of terminal cancer: there is nothing more to be done and all are dealing with that fact, or not.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s play opened in London in its first English translation in 1976. What was then seen as its titillating subject matter (lesbianism — shivers!) and the notoriety of its polymorphous perverse creator (even bigger shivers) gave the New End Theatre in Hampstead (piquantly, an 80-seat equivalent of our Old Fitz!) a huge hit.
Sara Wiseman is resplendent in her warts and all portrayal of the title role. Operatic and visceral, it is a stunning performance of a woman in control, and out of control, overwhelmed by infatuation and lust, completely unhinged, motivated only by her own desires. Wiseman unleashes profound emotional and psychological accuracy that makes every debauched plot detail believable, along with a magnetic sensuality that has us entranced from beginning to end.