Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Telegraph review 2
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John Gross review

John Gross of the Sunday Telegraph reviews Tongue of a Bird, Almeida, Islington. 15 November 1997

In Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird at the Almeida Theatre (presented in partnership with AT & T), Dessa's young daughter has been kidnapped by a man in a truck, somewhere in the American wilds, and a pilot called Maxine sets out to find her. Maxine is also searching for the truth about her own mother, who committed suicide when she was a child.

When the author isn't juggling with large obscure metaphors about flight and space and loss, she tends to go in for bursts of clotted would-be lyricism. She is also an exponent of the most depressing kind of ghetto-ised feminism: there is no place for men in her world (except perhaps as vicious kidnappers).

But just as I was giving up, the play came to life in a fine scene where Dessa and Maxine indulge in a fantasy that Dessa's daughter is safe, laughing at themselves as they do. There are subsequent scenes, too, where realistic portrayal takes over, almost always to beneficial effect. But they aren't enough to cancel out the prevailing pretentiousness; nor are good performances from Deborah Findlay as Maxine, Melanie Hill as Dessa and Miriam Karlin as a crotchety Polish grandmother. Peter Gill directs

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