Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Midweek Matinees

Now I've progressed to a diet that predominantly consists of toast (we're not going to talk about how much I would like a coffee. Almost enough to risk what it would do to my currently very delicate digestive system. Almost.) and I have exhausted the number of episodes of America's Next Top Model which you're legally allowed to watch in any 48 hour period I decided to seek comfort in the form of a mid week matinee. It's ingrained in my theatregoing psychology (probably from the years of watching matinees at the Oxford Playhouse) that weekday matinees are safe and warm and comfortable. Indeed you can take a blanket and a flask of tea and not look out of place in the audience. Whilst I wouldn't want to, y'know, live at a weekday matinee, they have their place. Namely: today.

I did manage to up the stakes slightly, however. One by choosing to see Death and the Maiden, a play concerned with torture, retribution and the brutality that humans are capable of perpetrating (hmm, not quite so comforting). And two by sitting down in the auditorium and realising that my right ear had inexplicably started to bleed. Which is exactly what you want - oh, great I'm having some sort of hemorrhage whilst sitting in the second row of the stalls at the Harold Pinter Theatre* during a weekday matinee. The front of house staff are going to love me. Obviously, though, my brain wasn't hemorrhaging and the ear bleeding stopped and I got to sit down and enjoy the brutality. Which is nice.

General thoughts: Thandy Newton is beautiful. Properly beautiful. But she takes a while to warm up. Tom Goodman-Hill, who I adored in the original Earthquakes in London production, owns the play (and with a role which probably shouldn't). There's an interval crammed in only for the purpose of selling drinks and letting people go to the toilet when, really, the play needs to be viewed in one sitting in all its twisting claustrophobia. There are some lovely directorial moments but the scene changes are just plain lazy. The play itself speaks loudly of a particular moment in the 1990's and yet there's also the feeling that it's not entirely bound by this. And Ariel Dorfman has some very good writing going on, at its best the play tangles your morals and makes you hold your breath. It's all good stuff  - some of it is very good indeed - and yet it falls short, in an annoyingly non-specific way, of being great. This is a play which should linger and I suspect it won't.

*Given my not at all disguised dislike of much of Pinter's output I can admire the karmic reward of this event.

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