2004: Owners

Owners – by Caryl Churchill

2004 – Etcetera Theatre

“The law’s not for morals so much as property.  The legal system was made by owners”


Nobody dies without discomfort, I take it as an occupational hazard” – Worsely


   “Sitting here quietly doing nothing the day goes by itself” – Alec



I will chop her mind into little pieces and blanch them in boiling water” – Clegg

Lisa  – Kristin Kerwin
Alec – Toby H. Wicks
Clegg – Richard Stone
Worsely – Asif Channa
Marion – Kim Sanger White
Alec’s mother – Pauline Walters
Mrs Arlington – Elaine Smithers


Directed by Caroline Ross

The Etcetera Theatre at the Oxford Arms
Camden Town
November 2 – 20th 2004




 “thoroughly enjoyable production of a character-rich play”         Camden New Journal

 Miles Maynard – Camden New Journal

“Churchill’s landlady deserves full house”

Caryl Churchill’s black comedy involves a diverse group of characters all inextricably linked through property and love. The characters resort to extreme measures to get what they think they want in life producing moments of real wit despite their appalling circumstances.

The colourfully portrayed Lisa is an unhappy tenant at the mercy of owner Marion. Her other half, Alex, is in control through his indifference to Marion, who is trying to bribe them to move out. Struggling butcher Clegg can’t share his wife Marion’s success and talks of killing her as he sees his business aspirations fall apart.

Suicidal Worsley is besotted by Marion, for whom he’ll do anything, in between attempts at self-annihilation. Kristen Kerwin is very amusing as she wrings every drop from her role as Lisa. Richard Stone as Clegg presents a character whose edgy nature slips entertaining from furious outburst to philosophical musing. There is a strong performance also from Kim Sanger White as his wife a masculine presence who revels in wearing the family trousers.

The direction gives the play fluidity throughout, except on a couple of occasions when it was impossible to tell whether certain characters onstage were supposed to be privy to certain conversations.

This is a basic but thoroughly enjoyable production of a character-rich play, one that deserves a full house.”

Time Out – Robert Shore

Caryl Churchill’s breakthrough play probably seemed very fresh when it was first produced at the Royal Court in 1972. Reversing traditional gender stereotypes to present a world of aggressive, competitive females and passive or professionally obsolete males, “Owners” offers a dystopian vision of a capitalist society obsessed with possession. At its heart is a simple opposition: Marion is a property dealer who sees herself as a “man of destiny”, while her ex-lover Alec (Toby H. Wicks) has achieved some sort of Zen ideal of worldly renunciation. Marion’s materialism doesn’t only include things: she also wants to own people – principally Alec and his child.

In exemplary post-modern fashion, Churchill frames serious social issues in farcical form: among the characters in this energetic black comedy are a murderous family butcher (Richard Stone) and a trainee property dealer, Worsley, (Asif Channa) who’s tried to kill himself six times but is so safety-conscious that his therapist has concluded that he must have a life wish.   The trenchant dialogue is good at deconstructing the logic of social conventions, less so at conveying human vulnerability – or at least that’s the impression one forms watching Caroline Ross’s slightly clumsy staging at the Etcetera….there are committed performances, in particular from Kristin Kerwin and Kim Sanger White (Marion).

The Stage


Published Monday 8 November 2004 at 16:10 by Colin Shearman

Imagine you’re poor, got two kids and the landlord wants you out of your grotty, damp flat. You would think that when the owner realised you were actually an old friend, it would make a difference. But not in Churchill’s world, where capitalist values always distort and destroy human feelings and friendships.

This black comedy from 1972 was Churchill’s first professional stage play and, written almost contemporaneously with Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, it introduces the feminist themes which dominate her work. Greedy property developer Marion (Sanger White) shares more than a similar name with Marlene, the central figure in Churchill’s later play Top Girls, as both are women who have to imitate men to succeed. Marion represses her maternal instincts, seduces and murders to get what she wants and treats her weak husband Clegg (Richard Stone) and submissive tenant Alec (Toby H Wicks) like dirt.

Reversing conventional male and female behaviour like this challenges sexual stereotypes and enables Churchill to argue that Marion’s aggressive behaviour and Alec’s passive attitude are ultimately both choices.

The characters are deliberately caricatures and Ross directs deadpan rather than with farcical gusto. This enhances the humour and allows the cast to speak with an Ortonesque formality – especially Channa as Marion’s downtrodden gofer Worsley, who is always comically failing to kill himself.