Inspired in part by Jim Cartwright’s Two, Damaged Goods is set in one location where people in the neighbourhood congregate. Written by Rosalind Adler, she – along with Richard Heap – play several characters. At the centre of the play is ‘The Hub’ – a deconsecrated church in west London, that in its own way still caters for the ‘spiritual needs’ of the community. Asides from the ubiquitous yoga sessions, the venue hosts various arts and craft classes, as well as activities that cater to the mind and body. Led by the charismatic ‘Janesh’ (actually a young middle class chap who’s adopted a Sanskrit name) the venue attracts people from all walks of life, looking to fill the “God-shaped hole” in their lives.
Sally’s a retired lecturer and once upon a time, was married to David. However, the death of their daughter proved to be too great for them – particularly for David who finds it hard to communicate his feelings, never mind deal with Sally’s grief. ‘Fortunately’ for him, he meets someone new who is considerably younger. But while he’s able to be a father again, Sally has no one to share the love she has to offer – maternal or otherwise…
Asides from Sally, another lady who visits ‘The Hub’ is Annie. A self-confessed ‘trophy wife’, Annie’s concerned that as she get older and starts to ‘lose her looks’, that she won’t have anything else to offer James, her husband. The fact that she’s never had children – while James has two sons from his marriage – preoccupies her thoughts. As someone who has never had to go to work, Annie decides to develop her mind and follow her yearning to learn. How does James view this? He thinks it’s ‘ok’ within reason, but one of the main reasons he likes Annie is that she’s ‘uncomplicated’, and doesn’t have an ‘alpha’ personality like the successful business women he’s used to meeting.
The third woman who features prominently in the play is Rhona. As someone who writes and performs her poems, one might assume she would be quite gregarious. However, her dry wit in the play singles her out as someone who has been disappointed by others and keeps certain people at arm’s length. Still, she attends sessions at ‘The Hub’ with psychiatrist Kevin, and seems to think that Janesh is interested in her… While Rhona’s astute observations about Kevin keeps him on his toes, his ‘relationship’ with her is perfectably amicable in comparison to the behaviour of his wife. The trouble Kevin has with being a psychiatrist is it’s ingrained into him to be reconciliatory at all times and find rational explanations for the most ‘off’ behaviour. However, is he really looking at his home life ‘objectively’?
Under Kirsty Bennett’s direction, the play oscillates naturally between its more serious, darker elements and the instances of levity, such as when Rhona speaks unapologetically what’s on her mind. The lives of the three women anchor the play, which ultimately concludes with a postive message. While the women are at first ‘tethered’ to the respective men in the lives (and of course ‘Janesh’), disappointment with their so-called ‘guru’ leads them to find their own strength and voice. In their own way, the ‘adversity’ that the men face is ‘the making of them’ – forcing them to reappraise what is important in life and what they should do.
© Michael Davis 2018
Damaged Goods runs at King’s Head Theatre until 18th July (6.30pm)