Monday, 25 August 2008

An Ideal No Man's Land

Two wonderful productions are on show in Dublin at the moment and I've been to both recently. An Ideal Husband is at the Abbey Theatre, running until 27 September 2008, and is directed by Neil Bartlett. Wilde's Husband dates from 1895, though it was written in 1893. It was during its performance in the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, that Wilde was arrested for gross indecency and his association with the play was suppressed. It is very hard not to watch the play with this somehow in the background, and when Sir Robert Chiltern says to his wife that no man should be entirely jugdged by his past, it resonates. The play's poster has a simple picture of Wilde with a red strip just covering his eyes: "We all all have to pay for what we do". Bartlett has done a marvellous job, and he has rendered the play richly and subtly. He has also drawn some wonderful performances, in particular Derble Crotty's chilling Mrs Cheveley and Mark O'Halloran's Lord Goring, frivolous one moment, poignant, searing, honest, the next. The rest of the cast are quite marvellous, and the way that the scenes change with the domestic staff changing props is very enjoyable. There are startling moments too. While the play's stage directions call for Mrs Cheveley to curse ("A curse breaks from her") as she tries to take the bracelet off, Crotty's Cheveley shouts out "Fuck!". It works, kind of. Mrs Cheveley is no lady but passes judgment on the ladies of London and the difficulty of "the season". The contrast could not be sharper. This is a complex and troubling play and the Abbey production brings out its very great strengths.

The Gate production of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land (1975), was first staged in 1997 as part of the Pinter season. This production (running for just four weeks), directed by Rupert Goold, boasts an all-star cast, David Bradley, Nick Dunning, Michael Gambon and David Walliams. This "tragi-comedy", as it is often described, is full of mystery and menace and the laughter is of the nervous kind rather than the hilarious. There is such an enclosed and suffocating sense in this play, and Nick Dunning's Briggs is a gem of barely restrained menace and anger. I'm not sure that Walliam's Foster is quite right, though I think I see what he was doing. He is certainly, however, ingratiating and his time onstage is very uncomfortable. David Bradley and Michael Gambon as Spooner and Hirst are compelling presences onstage, both so suave, both failures, one with nothing to lose, the other, with everything to lose. And each in some place they both see as a no man's land.

Both productions are very much worth going to see. So go!

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...