Escaped Alone might feel like two disparate plays spliced together. Flashes of light and booming sound effects rip us from one universe to another, ‘bouncing across scales of catastrophe,’ director Joanna Bowman‘s programme note tells us. However, thematic links connect the two worlds, and the push and pull between them is magnetic.

Mrs Jarrett (Blythe Duff) invites us into the play, introducing us to three neighbours – all older women – chatting in a neighbourhood garden. They chat and laugh, teasing one another, reflecting on local memories, and sharing trivial secrets with Mrs Jarrett. Initially, the mood is light-hearted and jovial. However, a crack of lightning teleports us elsewhere. Mrs Jarrett delivers the first of several monologues from upstage, detailing a dystopian future era or parallel universe in which humanity has been ravaged by monstrous disease, grotesque cannibalism, mass poverty, and brutal war.

The initial shift is (deliberately) jarring and the constant juxtaposition of these two layers of the play amplifies the micro and the macro; the minutae of domestic conversation and the personal versus the magnitude of the human race’s future in the face of climate change and political upheaval. What connects both realities, though, is a shared atmosphere of fear, disaster, and human will.

In mini-monologues, each of the women peel back facades to reveal personal tragedies and worries. Lena (Anne Kidd) speaks of a deep depression lingering beneath her pleasant veneer while Sally (Joanna Tope), in a standout moment, power-rambles about her OCD and phobia of cats in a comical, frenzied performance. Meanwhile, Vi (Irene Macdougall) delves into a surprising criminal past that haunts her still. Mrs Jarrett, as the relative outsider, chips in with humorous lines and observations before cracking open her own buried rage.

The result is a tight, consistently engaging piece of theatre from celebrated writer Caryl Churchill. The focus on women of an older generation is particularly refreshing and powerful, and the clashing of forms creates thought-provoking parallels between degrees of tragedy.