When Absolutes Are Anything But…. #review #theatre

I’ve been having a ‘mare with ordering theatre tickets recently. For our last two trips I seem to have managed to order five tickets for each performance. Ordering four might have some logic in that we might take one or other of our children and their other halves. That though would involve me asking them if they were free and were interested, neither case being in point. At no stage would five make sense…

Much like the play. Set in the immediate aftermath of the end of World War Two in bomb damaged Soho and immediately preceding the General Election all the action  takes place in a disintegrating drinking club.  That’s about the sum total of the plot. It’s a long play with a series of rich characters who are well drawn. They drink, they interact and they too, generally, fall to bits, much like the infrastructure all around them. Glimmers of hope are as often as not snuffed out as they are encouraged and by the end of 3 hours – quite a long 3 hours if I’m honest – not much is standing. Including both my credibility and my patience.

Absolute Hell was first performed in 1952 and it was scandalous. No Home Fit For Heroes this. My parents would have been horrified, mortified and scandalised by it. But, secretly, I expect they might have also recognised something. Today we both know war is shite, but also there are rarely winners. The heroes are mentally damaged and those who aren’t, aren’t the heroes. Rarely does anyone have a plan for the ‘what next’ when all the energies of wartime are spent on the goal of winning. Whoever, really, wins the peace?

But so much more could have been done here, so much more depth could have been plunged. It was written – as it was intended – to show nihilism is the end-game of war, not peace; but much like a play about apathy or syphilis – you know it exists without having to watch it develop over three hours – watching an exposition on self-destruction is, well, on this occasion self-defeating. One theme – of a young woman whose friend was freed from a concentration camp only to die during her rehabilitation by the Red Cross – could have been taken in all sorts of directions but it faded to grey, through the characters, possibly self-protective, indifference, like so much else.

What is undeniable is that the individual characters are creations worthy of fine acting and we had a lot of fine acting. There was the occasional bum note – the American RAF pilot’s fascination with mystics in India, intended I think to emphasise a childlike naivete that someone somewhere had ‘the answers’, merely came across as woodenly acted as might a clumsy child act a part of complex adult emotions. But for the most part the acting was terrific and it alone kept me in my seat until the final curtain.

A fair few people skipped the second half; they probably missed a decent ice cream, but they didn’t miss the denouement. The end and the beginning felt pretty much the same.

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 geofflepard.com 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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13 Responses to When Absolutes Are Anything But…. #review #theatre

  1. gordon759 says:

    Surely your additional ticket purchases is just a local manifestation of the firm of Dickhead Tours. Perhaps in future this task could be delegated to your wife, children, dog, cat, fern that grows by the compost heap etc.
    Interesting review, clearly the title was a clue to the enjoyment factor.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The last scene of Blackadder might have been a good substitute

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ritu says:

    Why five?????
    Shame the ending was a bit flat…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Reminds me of watching Becket monologues.

    Liked by 1 person

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