May 04

I wz sat next to the designer (a very old friend)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 206 views

I wz sat next to the designer (a very old friend) and behind the adaptor-translator, who i had just that evening met and liked, so my response to the African-politics reading of Mother Courage at the Hackney Empire is far more tied into friendships than cold hard observation. That sounds like damning w.faint praise of course: actually I really enjoyed it, and admired the ambition of it, even if too much was inaudible from where i wz sitting, and – as the designer quickly pointed out – the players were tired after a six-month run and coasting on easy gags, esp. in the first half. The crude jokes (abt condoms, macdonalds, man u.) got laughs – but sometimes they sounded a bit lazy (against an imagined background of way-better crafted humour readily available for us on TV etc) where they should have come back at us, even as we laughed, as shrill (against an imagined background of endless life-is-cheap panic). The extra inner loop that didn’t always fire was the one which insists: ok yr sneering but this is what YOU TOO would find say and find funny in this situation, and if you flinch at that, that’s bz a tumble into surgeon’s/mortician’s humour is what bullets and shells and bombs do to all the people involved that they AREN’T hitting. It’s interesting that the hardest thing to keep alive and vivid on-stage is the acute terror and uncertainty of life in a warzone: why is THIS the aspect audiences are most blas’ about, the aspect which gets reabsorbed and covered up quickest? Bcz we’re so distant from war, and naive – or bcz we’re so surrounded by it, and jaded?

Anyway the other thing to note is that the refurbished Empire – opulent pastiche Regency built abt 100 years ago by Frank Matcham – is a ridiculously lovely place to be in for an evening, so don’t be put off by the theatre-types doing the breathless promo: they’re right…

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