Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism
Notes and discussion: looking for the third world: theatre report from England, pp. -444 PDF (6.6 MB)
more than just a kind of undergraduate cleverness and slickness to it -I must say that the impact of the National's now-famous production was a bit blurred for me as a result of having earlier in the Summer seen a German production of it in Frankfurt- one which was quite different from the British one (and presumably less "authentic," since rumor has it that the author himself did much of the directing of the National's version), but one which struck me, in its gorgeousness and austerity, its odd wedding of the Brechtian chronicle to the Strindberg dream-play, as much more haunting and evocative than the more traditional British approach. The EDWARD 11, though, was more "Germanic" and Brechtian than Brecht himself, with a number of truly eye-opening novelties and innovations. The Edward -John Stride, the Rosencrantz of R. AND G. -was a tough little bulldog of a man, with no trace of effeminacy whatever in his bearing, and yet quite frankly and overtly homosexual. Gaveston was played as a muscular, red-haired Irish broth of a lad, a sort of combination of Christy Mahon and a Santa Monica beach-boy, yet when these two rather rugged virile types were reunited after a long separation Edward embraced Gaveston passionately and kissed him, long and lingeringly, full on the mouth. Similarly, in his final rejection of the Queen, Edward walks deliberately up to her and spits in her face - not once, but quite slowly, three times. When the rebellion is put down, the victorious soldiers haul in the horrifying realistic mangled remnants of the limbs and torsos of their defeated victims and leave them hanging about the lighted stage during the intermission. The Queen's decline into maundering drunkenness and nymphomania is portrayed in a way which leaves little to the imagination, while Mortimer is here not a glamorous villain, but a rather fussy, pedantic, balding scholar, happiest among his books, in looks and manner rather like a suburban bank-manager, but with an un-managerial propensity for brooding and melancholy. It is a very long play - although Brecht did a lot of pruning of Marlowe's chronological untidiness, he winds up with as lengthy a script as the original - and not without its longeurs, particularly in the first half, but it develops a very real "build," 442 indeed, as the evening wears on, and the final result is a powerful one. HOME AND BEAUTY, a bit of Maugham trivia, has been roundly slated by the critics, who have wondered publicly why the National chose to resurrect Maugham, of all people, and why, of all possible Maugham plays, this one? But even HOME AND BEAUTY was not treated quite as savagely as Natalie Guinzberg's THE ADVERTISEMENT, reputedly offered solely as a vehicle for Joan Plowright (who had recently complained of the dearth of big parts for women in the modern theatre). Irving Wardle, the critic of the TIMES, damned the National's presentation of THE ADVERTISEMENT as "a disgrace," and, while none of the others went quite that far, the "thumbs down" verdict on it wa's very nearly unanimous. As for its most recent play, Charles Wood's "H," opinions have been rather mixed. What with the Royal Court taking up Edward Bond as its post-Osborne "house playwright," with three of his plays currently in repertory there, the suspicion is that the National may have selected Wood as its entrant in this undeclared war of the theatres. If so, the odds at the moment would appear to be heavily in favor of Bond, although the fact remains that the RSC's own built-in "house playwright" still leaves them both pretty well in the shade. Apart from the two big companies and the Royal Court, struggling to redefine itself somehow after the great Osborne-George Devine-Bill Gaskill days of the late 50's and early 60's, London theatre is rather predictable and, as I suggested earlier, not much different from Broadway. London's version of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway- more dispersed and less insistent than Greenwich Village - lies in such places as the Round House (actually, a refurbished railroad round house), where Tony Richardson is currently presenting Nicoll Williamson as Hamlet and where earlier in the season John Arden's THE HERO RISES UP briefly befuddled, titillated, and irritated the critics and the public; the Ambience, specializing in Americans, such as Ed Bullins and Ed Berman; and the Open Space, in Tottenham Court Road, presided over by yet another American abroad, Charles Marowitz.