Directed by Simon Stokes
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
“Tuesdays that’s that. I spend the day there doing this and that dusting and all sorts. I shake out the tablecloth. I change the sheets. I empty the bin.” Pauline in “Tuesdays at Tesco’s”
The only thing that interrupts the samsara of Pauline’s (Simon Callow) hum-drum life is the string of dream ballets that spontaneously burst forth from the piano in her cramped apartment, or from inside the cramped interior of her expansive mind when she is out an about. These brief balletic romps remind Pauline of the life that could have been if only she were loved unconditionally and nonjudgmentally by her father for whom she cares and shops on Tuesdays.
Pauline’s father wants his son Paul back, the Paul who from childhood knew he was a girl – not a son, a daughter. But her father will not, cannot accept his transgender adult daughter though she caters to his every need. He seems able to tell a friend he has a daughter but that “confession” is not enough to redeem his insolence and his rabid intolerance of Pauline.
Robin Don’s set clearly defines the repetitive nature of Pauline’s life from which she attains liberation and sanctity not through practice but through an unexpected and unwelcomed incident on the night before the Tuesday she determined not to submit to her father’s abusive ranting. Conor Mitchell is splendid as the onstage musician whose “unfinished symphony” counterpoints Pauline’s unfinished journey from self-acceptance to freedom from external judgement.
Under Simon Stokes’ direction, Mr. Callow wrestles Emmanuel Darley’s sparse story and manages to kick it to the curb, finding within the few morsels of transcendence that make his performance authentic and memorable. But it is not an easy match. The script – as translated and adapted by Matthew Hurt and Sarah Vermande – is full of repetition and leaves the actor the daunting task of creating a believable character. Mr. Callow is successful in this effort and his Pauline emerges as a transgender woman who has all her life struggled to simply be what she has “always been as I am now me myself a woman.”
“Tuesdays at Tesco’s” is – because of Mr. Callow – a rich examination of the interior-scape of a transgender woman and invites the audience to examine its collective trove of misconceptions and prejudices about all who simply want to, in Pauline’s words, affirm “I am as I am. Myself me and that’s that.”