Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Welcome to Thebes by Moira Buffini

As an example of what David Mamet calls "pseudodrama" this could hardly be bettered. Pseudodramas "begin with a conclusion (capitalism, America, men, and so on, are bad) and award the audience for applauding its agreement". In other words, this is like art of the academy - orthodox, worthy, dull.

It is a shame that so much talent is put to something so mediocre: the set is magnificent, indeed the design of the whole is faultless (Tim Hatley is responsible); it is seamlessly directed (by Richard Eyre), the playcraft is assured (the playwright must take some credit for this), and the acting first class, although it must be said that the play buzzes best when David Harewood's Theseus is strutting about the stage.

I'm afraid I can't be bothered to rehearse the "plot" (there isn't one, actually). I will mention one aspect that I found particularly difficult: the inability to resist cheap jokes. These punctured any sense one might have of the gravity of the crisis being presented. We were told how bloody awful things were, but never shown. If humour is to be employed then it needs to be black as coal, not the "motherfucking father" stuff directed at Oedipus's daughters Antigone and Ismene, stuck in for no reason other than for a chortle. Furthermore it underlined the gestural nature of this kind of theatre: there is no tragedy here, merely the satisfaction of prejudice.

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