(A delayed review, but one clocking in at under 350 words.)
The Wrestling School (Not really a school but a collective of RSC/Royal Court/RADA grads surrounding playwright Howard Barker) bring their mentor’s newest work to their alma matter in the form of a 2.5 hours on war, infidelity, and needlepoint.
Sleev, a well to do Mrs. Robinson figure loses the husband she has never been faithful to in the war. As is traditional in her time and place, she and her maids (a crone and two silly young things) must complete a tapestry full of the story of the deceased and his life. Breaking tradition, Sleev dictates the main story should be a reflection of her infidelity and lies. For 2.5 hours the women talk, abuse Sleev’s daughter, discuss the symbolism of tapestry, lose their eyesight, talk about the past, discuss the symbolism of tapestry, talk Genesis (the biblical book, not the band), fear the approaching war, and talk tapestry. One could say it’s a big bible banging stitch ‘n’ bitch.
There’s also cock. A lot of cock. Y’see, Sleev’s hiding a rather attractive naked man in her wardrobe whom she worships while fucking her daughter’s husband on the side. In order to express her own desire to be the dominated one, Sleev sends her husband to find an unattractive man to control her. When her adonis is called up for service (he later returns in the lower half of a late 19th century uniform looking as attractive, if not more, than ever), her condition deteriorates. Unfortunately, when the handsome one returns, we find that the character is far more interesting when silent - he has a never-ending speech where one wishes he’d just shut up and start killing people.
The RZ is making light of this work, which does deserve some serious thought. There’s a lot of dense and worthy ideas packed in here, but the delivery is in a dull and unengaging way which comes off as a Victorian or Edwardian piece with some sharp one-liners piercing the drama rather than today’s fast moving methodology.
Where: RADA/Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre
When: Until 19 Apr. M-Sa @ 19:30, 19 Apr @ 15:00
How Much: £18 General Admission
Concessions: £10 for usuals, £8 for RADA students
RZ Unofficial Worth Paying: £10. Add a few if you’re really in the mood for a brain buster evening or for a cheaper evening than a seedy club in Soho.
RZ Other Notes: The nudity ends at the interval. In seriousness, this is a play that takes time to digest. It’s not an easy work, in part because it drags (especially at the end), but also because there is so much discussion of symbolism and allegory to warfare, sexual fidelity, identity, feminism, etc. This is not a “fun night out play”, but an “I go to the theatre to think” play.
Also, permitting the spoiler, when the attractive man in uniform returns, Sleev begs him to fuck her. When he refuses, she offers her blind person’s cane (the RZ is awful for not knowing the proper title) and grovels for him to beat her instead. All the RZ could think of during said sequence was Forbidden Broadway’s parody of the similar scene in Spring Awakening.
Wendla: “My supporting castmate tells me her father beats her with a broomstick every night. And since I’ve never been beaten I don’t know what it feels like. So would you beat me with a great big stick?”
Melchior: “I couldn’t!”
Melchior: “OK! Like this? (feeble smack)”
Wendla: “Put your back into it, you sissy...”