Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone is a play that combines neighbourly chit-chat with visions of apocalyptic horror. It was first performed in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 21 January 2016.
The play's action takes place in Sally's backyard over a series of summer afternoons. Three friends – Sally, Vi and Lena – are chatting when another woman, Mrs Jarrett, less well known to them, appears at the open door in the fence and joins them. All four women are 'at least seventy'. Their relaxed, gossipy conversations – played continuously although, according to a note in the text, they actually take place over 'a number of afternoons' – are represented in a distinctively compressed, allusive style. The play is divided into eight numbered sections; in each section the conversation is suspended while Mrs Jarrett delivers a monologue describing an evolving apocalyptic scenario in horrific and frequently surreal terms. In addition, in the second half of the play, each of the other characters delivers a short soliloquy or aside, laying bare their own particular psychological troubles: Sally's phobia of cats; Lena's crippling depression; Vi's intense dislike of kitchens, having killed her husband in her own kitchen several years before. In section 6, in a departure from the established pattern, they all sing a song (the actual song is unspecified in the script; in the premiere production it was 'Da Doo Ron Ron', a song made popular by American girl group The Crystals).
The Royal Court premiere was directed by James Macdonald and designed by Miriam Buether, with Linda Bassett as Mrs Jarrett, Deborah Findlay as Sally, Kika Markham as Lena and June Watson as Vi.