A new life for The Killing of Sister George - Meera Syal stars in October 2011 London stage adaptation

Posted: 21st June 2011

The 1960s probably tackled more taboo subjects by the medium of film and theatre, than any other decade and by 'taboo', I mean sex, addiction and death. Kitchen-sink dramas, both on the silver screen and on the stage, increasingly started to feature otherwise tetchy material - it wasn't all Carnaby Street, The Beatles and Twiggy's legs, this was the 'swinging' '60s, after all.

"A Taste of Honey", "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "Billy Liar" and "Alfie" were prime examples of so-called 'kitchen-sink dramas' that drew on gritty dialogue, sexuality, bleak landscapes, death and frustration and sometimes all five, particularly in the case of "The Killing of Sister George".

Originally written as a play in 1964 by Frank Marcus and later adapted for the X-rated film version directed by Robert Aldrich, "George" dealt with alcoholism, abuse and lesbianism at a time when the average Eastenders episode would have been quietly tucked away at 11pm on the TV schedules for its 'explicit' violence (not for Dot Cotton's nicotine intake or Phil Mitchell's threatening grimaces). This WAS the hard-stuff, no kidding.

The plot centres on (Sister) George, the alter-ego and radio-show character played by June Buckridge, a smoking, drinking bully of a matriarch who imposes her wrath on the timid and naive 'Childie', her live-in friend and occasional lover. When news of George's demise in the radio-show, "Applehurst", becomes public, Buckridge's world also begins to implode as she becomes an intolerable and overbearing monstrosity who clearly needs help with her numerous character pitfalls and almighty strop. It's classic stuff.

Previous actresses who have played the part of 'George' include Beryl Reid, Miriam Margoyles and Sarah Badel, but the new girl on the (chopping) block for this new 2011 adaptation is Meera Syal, known to millions as a member of the comedy series "Goodness Gracious Me" and "The Kumars at No.42", as well as previous stage-works such as "Shirley Valentine".

The play will run from 5th to 29th October at the Arts Theatre in Soho and tickets for the show will cost £40.50. However, there are limited Earlybird tickets available for the evening performance on 5th October and the matinee on the 6th, priced at £25.

Paul Pledger