My last trip to the theatre was ended with a cough that sounded much like the engine of my Honda 250 after I put it back together and found I had acquired two spare nut thingies. My companion told me she didn’t want to be near me when I brought the National to a halt so that was that.
Consequently I looked forward to the latest trip with a frisson of excitement. That is until I realised I had totally forgotten what it was we were going to see. My problem is one of efficiency combined with incorrigible tidiness. Huh? It’s like this. I book a long way in advance to ensure we have tickets. I write the time and place and name of the play in the family diary. I put the brochure we used to decide to book this play ‘somewhere safe’. In the intervening 3 months I tidy up. I place the brochure somewhere else ‘safe’. In the self same 3 months the brochure may or may not end up recycled, upcycled, in the dog’s bed or the cat litter tray or where it should be. The day before we are due to go I am asked, ‘So what is it we are seeing?’ In a frenzy of annoyance I hunt the brochure and can’t find it so I go on the net to read about it and that’s where it all falls apart.
The problem? Reviews. By this point the play has been reviewed and the search engine directs me to the reviews, not a sumary. It shows the star rating and I find myself drawn to read what some hemorrhoidal sociopath has written. In this case
- Independent 3*s … disappointing new work
- Guardian 2*s … over stuffed and underheated
- The Stage 2*s … Initially intriguing but ultimately unconvincing new play set in 1960s Greece
The premise is a young couple, in 1967 Greece are staying on the cheap on a small island and meet an American couple. They form a friendship, they are persuaded that, because the Greek owners want to buy they should stump up the little cash – the Greek owners are desperate to leave – and buy the place. They do, the Colonels throw out the dodgy left wing government the next day and we skip to 1976 when democracy has just been restored. The idealistic youngsters are now parents and the Americans back for a visit.
As a human drama, the interaction between the couples is well done. Perhaps the attraction for the young woman for the older American man is unlikely but, hey, these things happen with a surfeit of sun and retsina.
It’s the interwoven politics which have galled the critics and which are rather trite. The US is to blame for the coup, the American is really CIA and by 1976 is loathing himself but still believes what he does is necessary. The idealistic youngsters are then shown to be hypocrites by exploiting the desperation of the locals to leave. It’s a nice juxtaposition and in the hands of a Miller or a Frayn or, indeed David Hare circa 1995 would have been neatly and craftily unpicked. Here it’s a little too simplistic, a little too dumped at the end in set piece speeches or the American man and the younger woman. The other two are more props for these two to upload their polemic.
Oh, was that a plot spoiler? Meah, read the reviews like me and see for yourself.
Thing is, despite its weaknesses – it could and should be workshopped a lot harder – Sunset at Villa Thalia was an enjoyable evening. It helps that the acting was good – Ben Miller and Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Mrs Downton) were excellent -, the company was good and the ice cream excellent. I forgive a lot for decent ice cream.