Going against what society deems “the norm” can be one of the most difficult and traumatising things for an individual to come to terms with, and none moreso than when it goes against your parents’ expectations. The extraordinary is beside the banal in Tuesday at Tescos as the tumultuous relationship between Pauline (Simon Callow) and her father plays out in the supermarket aisles. In full public glare, they struggle to come to terms with Paul’s – now Pauline’s – life choice to dress as and “be” a woman.
Commissioned for Assembly and translated by Matthew Hurt and Sarah Vermande, the script is incredibly revealing and at its very core demonstrates writer Emmanuel Darley‘s ability to understand the determination yet vulnerability of the human psyche. Told through a monologue exploring identity and an interpretation of the Self, Darley presents the empowering but often heart-breaking balance of trying to finally be happy within at the overwhelming expense of others – and, consequently, even oneself.
As is to be expected of someone with his reputation, Callow gives a sensitive and knowing performance, sometimes with specklings of humour, at others imbuing a feeling of helplessly inescapable sadness. Despite his physique being very unladylike, he quickly embodies his character to the extent that it is utterly believable that he is not just a transvestite, but really a woman. Robin Don‘s design is both minimalistic and subtly symbolic, enhancing without distracting from Callow’s captivating performance. Along with occasional interruptions from a discordant honky-tonk piano, this is a production that oozes quality.