Billed as an uplifting tale about murder,
Send More Paper is a brilliant black comedy that will leave you feeling unsettled… after you’ve stopped laughing.
In this bold piece of theatre directed by Mark Calvert and devised by the company, a group of small-town women form a secret club to murder their awful husbands using poison extracted from fly paper. It’s loosely based on true stories of Hungarian women who poisoned their husbands and families.
The staging is dynamic and physical (one of the women performs on rollerskates). The ensemble slips between characters with simple costume changes and all the performances are strong. We’re hooked from the opening scene, where actors produce words from their person, whether on bits of paper or written with sharpies on their skin. At another point, the plastic bottles that once held poison are used total up the many victims.
The mysterious Susie starts it all – her death is equally mysterious and I’d like to see that unfold. Susie offers a way out women trapped by abusive, philandering and sometimes downright misogynistic husbands. We don’t really see the justification for the individual women killing their husbands – yes, they’re horrid, though we learn this through a visual shorthand: a synchronised slamming of wives’ heads down onto tables. The violence is very effective, but I’d still like to see more dimensionality to the characters. If we could see the individual stories play out, we might further understand how the women reach their decision to act.
The rock heavy soundtrack is fantastic, contributing a sense of sleaziness to the atmosphere along with Andrew Stephenson’s design (paint-spattered tables and benches which create the environs of a small town bar). Pharell Williams’ Happy ironically underscores a montage of poisoned men convulsing against the tables in an echo of the violence they enacted on their wives. Muse’s cover of Feeling Good is also used to great effect in establishing mood. This all contributes to upbeat absurdness of celebrating murders.
This show raises interesting questions about the nature of power and empowerment. In the gender battle, how far must women go – and how far is too far? Send More Paper is a brilliant black comedy that will leave you feeling unsettled… after you’ve stopped laughing.