Friday, May 05, 2006

Breaking News: The Rachel Corrie Ban

Off to the theatre last night to see a series of 12 short plays (sketches, I suppose you might call them) inspired by the cowardice of the New York Theatre Workshop.

They’re the outfit that, rather late, realised that a play about Rachel Corrie might anger some elements in the New York Jewish community, especially the ones that pay their bills.

So once again, it’s London that shows some artistic freedom, while the self-proclaimed artistic and cultural capital of the world, with enormous respect and self-love for itself, and located in the land of the free, acts like Moscow at the height of some Stalinist purge circa 1938.
Never mind, back in stuffy old London, a competition was announced that asked for short plays, of no longer than 10 mins duration, inspired by the NYTWs cowardly self censorship. One of my colleagues, Haley, decided to have a go and to nobody's great surprise (she's talented) she found her play selected for production.

Things started well with a mildly amusing Disclaimer written by Cary Barney and competently performed by Donnacadh O’Briain. It took the piss out of the NYTW and their fear of ‘controversy' (gulp!). Then we trooped up the stairs and into the theatre itself, a small space but, joy, the seat rows were high enough so you could see, and joy, the acoustics are very good, probably by accident.

All these advantages couldn’t help Homeland, an unconvincing piece, poorly acted, and at least 5 minutes too long. Lie Detector by Peter Yates was a complete contrast - taut, witty, and well acted, with Jenny Taylor outstanding as the interrogator. Elise Hearst's Tough Love, a narration by an Israeli girl soldier (Vanessa Ackerman) was also well acted, although the monologue didn’t entirely convince.

The least said about A Decision, and the abysmal Health and Safety, and the unconvincing Rant 69 the better. The interval was welcome. As always it’s a pleasure to spend time with Haley, and it was nice to meet her charming Mum.

Too soon, back into the theatre we troop, and I’m hoping for an increase in quality, not so much of the material (12 were chosen out of about 100, so the writing is often good) but in their acting, or maybe direction. We start with Press Conference, which is competent satire on American foreign policy (such a difficult target) although I can’t understand why Rick Bland’s delivery seemed so nervous – was he under-rehearsed?

The Serf of Tidworth was a lovely idea – that of Tudor censorship and its parallels today, but poorly executed. The next piece by Aoife Mannix was actually called Parallel and it made me extremely angry, as out came the old and very evil lie that the Israel Palestine conflict is equal and balanced, and that terrible things happen to both sides. Indeed they do, but one side kills over three times as many people as the other side. One side has an army, a navy, an air force, all lavishly equipped with the finest weapons America can manufacture. The other side has untrained teenagers armed with 50-year old Russian small-arms. This ‘balanced’ view is borne of ignorance – I’ve never met anyone who’s actually spent time in occupied territories who believes it.

By contrast, Care Less by Saman Shad was a nice idea – about how good causes become fashionable and are then forgotten about (they go out of fashion!) but marred by desperately awkward and unconvincing performances. So I was rather worried about what Haley’s piece entitled Together for Tomorrow might be like. I needn’t have worried – Orna Salinger put on a good competent performance, and Haley’s writing was fluent and inspiring without going over the top with the imagery or rhetoric. One of the more talented people I've met in the past few years, the quality of the writing wasn't a surprise, but given some of the crap we'd seen earlier, the acting was.

No time to linger much afterwards, but it was a beautiful warm evening, and London felt like a foreign city, somewhere exotic, and glamorous.

I didn’t get home till 2:30AM – I need to move. Maybe I’ll start looking next month.


Blogger David Young said...

Did anyone do a play taking the piss out of Islamic fundamentalism? Anyone do something about the Mohammed cartoons violence?

Tumbleweed blows through the blogosphere.


11:47 PM  
Blogger roGER said...

No David, not my knowledge...

- roGER

3:57 PM  
Blogger -canuck- said...

Rachel Corrie: Dead Terrorist.

10:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home