Year: 1993

Title of the play: Squirrels

Author: David Mamet

Director: Aaron Mullen

Others in the Cast: Steven O'Shea and Sara Kestelman

Company/Event: Mandrake Theatre Company

Theatre and location: King’s Head Theatre, London

Other productions of the same play: 

Plot summary: The 1974 comedy is about Arthur, a middle-aged, egotistical hack writer who has been working on the opening line of a story involving a man's encounter with a squirrel for fifteen years, and Edmond, the young fledgling writer he has hired as a secretary/collaborator. They soon discover that Arthur's flamboyant redundancy clashes with Edmond's mediocre melodramatic style as they each develop increasingly ridiculous scenarios for the story. They are joined by Arthur's cleaning lady, also an aspiring writer, whose suggestions seem to be the most promising, but they too eventually bog down in banality. - Wikipedia

Peth’s role: Arthur


A fast-talking absurdist comedy, it focuses - like his later play A Life in the Theatre - on an old 'pro' and his young protege, writers in this case rather than actors. With growing resentment, the ambitious newcomer, Edmond (Steven O'Shea) endeavours to assist Arthur, his blocked boss (Edward Petherbridge) who has been stuck on the opening paragraph of the story for the last 15 years. Their futile labours are periodically interrupted by the office cleaning lady (Sara Kestelman), a fiesty former flame of Arthur's. The cast of Aaron Mullen's production are perfectly attuned to the kind of obsessive, quietly zany comedy required, and before the joke wears thin and you begin to wonder whether the play suffers from the same syndrome as its characters, there are some terrific laughs at the expense of the compulsive semantic hair-splitting, the entanglement in trivia and the misplaced desire for grandiose generalisation that hobble the narrative.
The story - how to put this? - concerns a man on a park bench who puts a hand out to a squirrel, gets it bitten and then tries to strangle it with his other hand. Will that do? No, as Arthur urges agitatedly: 'We start afresh; we search for guts.' Mamet had already written a play entitled Duck Variations; this one could be called Squirrel Variations, or The Nut-Gatherer Suite. 'A man goes into the park with no intention of strangling a squirrel but does so.' 'The park, scene of man's violence and animal hunger . . .' But wait, there's to be a second squirrel: 'A man, incapable of distinguishing between squirrels, goes into a park.' And couldn't we do better than 'man'? Edmond goes for elevation: 'Some homeless man, some receptacle of the godhead . . .' - Paul Taylor, The Independent, 15 March 1993


David Mamet's Squirrels, receiving its European premiere at the King's Head, recalls the same author's A Life in the Theatre. Another early piece, it too shows an eager artistic newcomer tangling with a clapped-out old pro: in this case a young writer resentfully assisting a blocked senior who has been struggling with an opening sentence for 15 years. Despite the interventions of a cleaning lady who has literary ambitions of her own, the play is trapped in the same stalemate. What it does offer is some delicious dialogue and thoroughbred performances from Sara Kestelman, Edward Petherbridge, and Steven O'Shea. Irving Wardle, The Independent, 14 March 1993

Production details:

Sets: Michael Vale

Costumes: Tom Pye

Lighting: Jonathan Abell

Related links:


Make a Free Website with Yola.