05 October 2005

The History Boys, Creditors, 'Tis Pity She's A Whore

Well I liked all three of these. Alan Bennett, August Strindberg and John Ford, formidable storytellers.
Creditors, the Strindberg at Southwark, was laudably intense and emotional, the pitch and pace never waned in the unravelling of what is actually rather a simple tale of jealousy and menage a troiserie. All credit to the young actors Cassie Rain, Tom McClane and Nicholas Figgis.

I had more problems with the Bennett, which isn't to say I didn't enjoy it muchly. Went with B and we had a fine old time, the jokes come thick and fast, the ensemble writing is matchlessly fluid and sparky, the emotional punches hit home. No it's just that I thought it wasn't a play, really. Or more exactly, it wasn't primarily a play, but a script written first to be filmed but with just enough structural solidity to hold together in the Lyttleton. Almost every scene was followed by a hiatus in which an 80s pop song kicked in (Madness, Duran Duran etc), a short film sequence of the characters was shown on a large back projection, and the cast and stagehands busied themselves rearranging the set in the semi-dark. Preposterous, really. For the National Theatre. Again, I have to say the writing is sublimely humane and funny. The sexual politics is very interesting and the depiction of that bygone age of single-sex grammar school boys striving to get to Oxbridge is brilliant (I know, because I was there). I just wonder if it's really a play. Or whether, more precisely, if its status as a hit play, while clearly deserved because of the skill, wit and verve of the thing, doesn't owe something to its televisual nature. Susannah Clapp wrote in the Observer: 'As the play weaves between past and present, there are a few rickety moments - a sputtering start, some storylines which fizzle out - but no one who responds to it will care.' Well, actually... I for one did respond to it - I laughed my head off - but I did care about its flaws.

Saw 'Tis Pity She's A Whore last night and while I don't quite share the inordinate passion for the acting expressed by Fiona Mountford in the Standard, I did find it riveting and extremely well done, and Charlie Cox and Mariah Gale were stunning as the doomed siblings. I've seen countless things at Southwark but have seldom seen the space used better. It's never smelled better, either - the company fill it with Catholic incense (yum). I'd not seen the play before and found the denouement really quite shocking...

2 comments:

spindleshanks said...

will do my best to get to tis pity &c on your recommendation but think you are v kind indeed re the strindberg. maybe it's just because i was traumatised acting in ghosts at university - i can only assume the audience wished they were dying along with me. all that god awful angst - i'm too old for it.

sbs said...

well i don't know about your being too old. it was certainly angsty to the max, and one does need to be in the right frame, don't one. and one rarely is. but i'm glad people do these plays still, if only to show wannabe angsters how it's really done.