Metro Plus Chennai

Into the mind of a murderess
WCC's presentation of Sharon Pollock's "Blood Relations" was a successful attempt at serious theatre

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

What can one say about a woman who took a hatchet to her own father, inflicting 11 blows, and her step-mother, 19 blows on that hapless woman? Simply that the perpetrator has to be a psychopath. And that is how Dr. P. Rajani, director of Women's Christian College's annual theatre offering, has fleshed out the infamous Lizzie Borden, protagonist of Sharon Pollock's award winning play, "Blood Relations."

It is the late summer of 1892, in a small town in Massachusetts, and one of the place's wealthiest men, Andrew Borden and his wife Abby, are found brutally hacked to death. They have an elder daughter Emma, 36, but Emma is away for the weekend. Their maid Bridget O' Sullivan was washing the windows at the back of the house. Their daughter Lizzie, 32 years old... ah well, no one, not even Lizzie, seems quite sure what she was doing or where she was at the time of the murders. She keeps changing her deposition ("I was upstairs...I was in the barn..."); she has a strong motive in trying to preserve her inheritance from Abby and Abby's insinuating brother Harry Wingate. Lizzie Borden, was, incredibly enough, acquitted of the crime.

So, did she? Or didn't she? Pollock's play is powerful in its portrayal of the seriously disturbed and desperate Lizzie, but indirectly so. The real Lizzie Borden, seen many years after the murders, has struck up a close friendship with an actress. Her sister Emma has moved out of the house the sisters share. Bridget is long gone. Life has resolved itself into some kind of pattern, not what Lizzie wanted for herself but is forced to accept since the townspeople will have nothing to do with her.

`The actress' is as curious as everybody else to know if Lizzie did do her parents in or not. So, they go down this grisly Memory Lane, with the actress taking on the part of Lizzie, the real Lizzie an almost passive observer. And by the end of the play, the audience arrives at a definite conclusion.

Ann Vinod as Lizzie Borden is a neat counterfoil to her dramatised persona, played with consummate skill by Kalyani Kumar in the role of the actress. The two are ably supported by Sanjana Paulraj in the double role of Andrew Borden and Dr. Patrick, Kimberly Thompson as the skittish Emma, Xyna Prasad as Bridget, Angela Rachel as Mrs. Borden, Athulya Pulimood as Harry Wingate and Ponnu Elizabeth Mathew as the lawyer for the defence. The sets are minimalist, sound and lighting good, and costumes, very good.

 A brave — and successful — attempt at serious theatre by WCC.


Labels: , , , ,