Beyond Caring – a review of sorts

One of the blessings of living in London, or at least within an easy commute, is the access to theatreland and, especially, to our wondrous and brilliant and… you get the idea… National Theatre. Outside it is a rather ugly structure, a series of concrete boxes that even lovers of Brutalism might struggle to praise but inside the space is imaginative and the auditoriums (auditoria?) superb. Recently work has been undertaken to develop the Cottesloe and rename it the Dorfmann. Alongside this work, which has muddled the eating arrangements somewhat – which annoys the latent curmudgeon in me, a temporary space has been erected. Looking like a mini power station clad in red lego, the Gallery is a Spartan space with an intimate feel and is used to showcase new talent and ideas.

The Textiliste and I decided to have a dabble and went to see Beyond Caring. This is the blurb that the National puts out.

Four people arrive to work the night shift in a meat factory. They meet for the first time. They are employed as cleaners, by a temp agency. They are all on zero-hours contracts.

Every shift, they clean. Every four hours, they take a break. They drink tea or coffee together. They read magazines. They chat. As it gets light, they go home, or to another job. The cycle goes on. And on. Strangers. Until something stirs, until isolated people get too close to one another, too fast.

It sounded intriguing. Zero hours contracts are a hot topic politically just now with a lot of mixed views about them so that attracted us.

We settled into our seats. The theatre was full; the set and the audience overlapping with no traditional stage and we waited for the play to start. A young woman, earphones plugged in enters. Looks around and shuffles about, clearly not comfortable where she is. Then another, older woman enters. A man, clearly comfortable in his environment wanderers about and goes to the toilet.

It had all the hallmarks of a gritty kitchen sink drama. You expected tension, characters ready to explode, friction.

But we just got dull. The routine of a dull job with people going through the motions. Occasionally when one character wanted an afternoon off it looked it might spark. But it didn’t. Not really. The woman to my right began to snore. Her companion picked at something on the glass of her watch.

One character had a disability. She struggled with the work. She received a warning from the supervisor who raised a small laugh with some mindless management speak. A man sitting below me compulsively crossed and uncrossed his legs; I worried he might catch himself and squeal inappropriately.

There was no interval; no ice cream. The flyer slipped from my fingers and I just caught it before it glided towards the action – well, the inaction.

The disabled woman fell asleep at the table; two other characters stared at each other. They moved in close. Gradually but inexorably, like an oil tanker turning round they kissed, groped and disrobed, discretely but actually, and simulated sex. The man, I think, method-acted an orgasm but he could have swallowed a boiled sweet. The sleeper didn’t shift.

Sex over, they re-robed and retook their places at the equipment they were cleaning. The sleeper woke and took her chair to clean in a sitting position. This was significant; before she had been in her knees. I concluded she had now established her position in the group dynamic. Up to this point the supervisor had supervised but now he took up a brush and started cleaning himself. I thought this had a deep meaning; a metaphor that, together with the intercourse, we understood the team had bonded and become one.

People started applauding. Did they know it was over or were they just hopeful? I stayed put, rather uncertain but the Textiliste wanted a coffee so we headed for the exit.

The actors worked very hard; the back stage crew did all that might be asked of them. It only cost £20.  And it was warm and out of the rain. But I did miss my ice cream.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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31 Responses to Beyond Caring – a review of sorts

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Well I have actually heard of this play but after your intriguing account I feel I no longer nerd to think about it! Cheers Grateful of Peasmoldier! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yvonne says:

    So perhaps your advice would be – when it comes up to the Edinburgh Festival, don’t bother?
    At least, as you say, it was out of the rain.
    You did an good job of making an interesting review out of a boring play though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      The main broadsheets – Guardian, Indy and Torygraph rated it so I suspect I’m right! I wouldn’t go again for sure. I’m up for the fringe festival again with Textiliste and Vet. If you’re free for a coffee…?


  3. Rachel M says:

    Haha. I think your review might be better than the play itself 🙂


  4. Sacha Black says:

    sorry – wait – WHAT now? they did what on stage? they actually got naked? and then pretended to have sex? :O

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Norah says:

    Sounds like the activity in the audience was as interesting as what was happening on stage.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. trifflepudling says:

    That sounds like a completely dire evening! However did you stand it?! No wonder there was no interval – they didn’t want people to escape. And then re-living it by writing about it – brave man.

    Nudity on stage is sooo embarrassing. I remember going to the Royal Court with a college friend when I was about 20 and we saw a play about John Clare and at one point this fairly elderly chap got completely naked and stood in the middle of the stage facing front for about a minute. We couldn’t understand why he was doing it, although now I know more about John Clare, maybe he was meant to be going mad: the play was very confusing. There was just an embarrassed silence throughout the auditorium. So 40 years after seeing the play, all I can remember is the naked guy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Fortunately the nudity was discrete and we only saw bits but the action was pretty off putting even with some clothes left on. I remember a Diana Rigg play where she had a body double and Nicole Kidman pretty much permanently starkers in the Blue Room at the Donmar. It does tend to take ones mind off the plot.


      • I’ll say! It does sound like it was slightly gratuitous, though, because it didn’t have much to do with anything.

        Look forward to your next review, theatre, film or otherwise!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        It was – it came from nowhere.


      • TanGental says:

        soz that went off mid comment. I was saying it would open a can of worms so I suspect, whatever Mrs Clooney says it won’t happen. And I’m with you on QE2. And Phil. And Will and Kate and the sprogs. It’s the rest I think are different degrees of wastes of space. I’m a resigned monarchist; I fear the sort of president we’d get if we changed so happy to leave well alone.


  7. Charli Mills says:

    It’s a rich theater community that can afford to experiment. It’s all a part of the artistic process and you are much blessed to have odd nights out. I’m glad you appreciate the work of the actors and crew if not the actual play itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      No, your comment is entirely fair; I do appreciate the fact we have people willing to try. If someone didn’t take a chance we wouldn’t have had the likes of Pinter and Miller and Beckett and Osbourne


  8. noelleg44 says:

    If it ever shows up on this side of the pond in our area, I’ll be sure to miss it. We used to attend tha Ahmanson Theater in LA when we lived south of LA. We had season tickets and I remember one play we attended – it was supposedly pre-Broadway and was written by Mart Crawley who wrote Boys in the Band, I think it was worse than Beyond Caring. It starred William Shatner, and it closed after one week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes, there are some that some how slip through, aren’t there? I can’t complain; the overall quality of the plays at the national is extraordinary and they are always pushing the boundaries. The ticket price was only £20 so I shouldn’t really be churlish.


  9. Don’t think I’ll be in a rush to go and see this when I am next in London. Sounds like something from BBC4 on a Sunday night at 11pm. I suppose it could have been worse? Maybe not? A toilet break is a must as well, during any performance. Maybe that is why the guy in front kept crossing and uncrossing this legs?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Or one of those posh cinemas where for triple the cost of your ticket, you have light refreshments and drinks on tap during the performance whilst sat on nice comfy sofas.

    Liked by 1 person

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