Thursday, 15 October 2009


13/10/09, Duke of Yorks

2hrs 20 mins. By Andrew Bovell, who wrote When the Rain Comes which we saw at the Almeida recently and which was a cracker, mannered but thought-provoking, multi-layered and rather moving.

This play was the basis for a well-received film, Lantana, which we haven't seen but which S and A think not bad. And this production has a promising cast: John Simm from Life on Mars and Elling (in which he was very good a year or two back at the Trafalgar Studios); Ian Hart, whom I remember from Backbeat, the 1994 film about the "fifth Beatle" Stuart Sutcliffe and the band's time in Hamburg, in which he played John Lennon rather brilliantly (he has aged somewhat, though I suppose it was 15 years ago); Kerry Fox from Shallow Grave, looking Mumsy; and an actress new to us called Lucy Cohu.

It started well. Two couples dancing in alternating pools of light. Then the back wall rises in the dark to reveal a neon sign saying "hotel", seen from the back, and we are in a hotel room. Both couples engage in near-identical dialogue, mostly in unison (which could have become tiresome, but Bovell knew when to stop). It emerges that these are adulterous one-night stands, destined to remain unconsummated. And that the woman in couple A is married to the man in couple B, and vice-versa.

The next scene(s) is/are played out in the couple's(s') living room(s). One half confesses the affair to the other (who preteneds outrage) and they one half leaves home. Next we see the two men in a bar, where they have chanced on one another; then the two women in another bar, likewise. In each case one realises that the other is their partner's adulterous squeeze.

At which point the wheels came off rather. The (married) couples get together again and the "guilty" party in each case tells their husband/wife a story... interminably. The John Simm character tells of going jogging, colliding with a man he later finds weeping and then sees on the beach, where he abandons his brown brogues. The Kerry Fox character tells of a neighbour arrested on suspicion of murder after she has seen him throw a woman's shoe from his car onto a piece of wasteland and called the police.

Until this point the play had been excessively schematic and mannered, but there had been some dramatic tension: a series of rtevelations emerging in the proper way through dialogue. I wanted to know what would happen next. But the monologues finished me; I lost the will to lie. To judge by the coughs and shuffles around us I wasn't alone. D agreed and we left. The others stayed.

On the bus home I read the programme and wondered if we'd made a mistake. Each of the actors it seemed played at least one other character, so we wouldn't have been stuck with the ones we'd lost interest in. There was talk in an interview with the author (or was it the director?) of multi-layering.

I emailed the others to see if we'd made a mistake.

I got this back from A: I think we felt the second act was worth seeing although, as S said, it’s all well and good having actors double in roles but at times it can get very confusing when you introduce another whole set of characters. We did establish that Nick, the next-door neighbour, did not kill the woman, Valerie, whose shoe was in his car. She got freaked by her own demons and jumped out of his car, never to be seen/heard of again, at least in terms of our evening. We heard from Sarah (I think), the erstwhile girlfriend of the saddo who never got over her departure to the States, in that she did recognize him and spent some time angsting about it. The film, Lantana is, like the word (which I had to look up) and the play, a tendril-like affair, showing that there are more layers on layers and many lives are tangled into one another, often tangentially. It seems to me (but I’d have to see it again to be sure) that they ultimately left the conclusion hanging as to whodunnit.

Dr T wrote: I think it rather picked up in the second act and I liked the rather stagey (it is theatre) complex way the characters were all loosely connected to each other, and the way incidents/stories were told from different perspectives. The fact that the Sarah character chose her lover's wife as her psychotherapist was tantalisingly unexplored. But like wine, play-watching is contextual so as you were knackered an early night may have been more enjoyable for you.

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