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The Hairy Ape

Southwark Playhouse

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#1 steveatplays


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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:36 PM

I caught the matinee of The Hairy Ape today.

Far more downbeat than either of the other recent O'Neill London productions (Long Day's Journey into the Night & Anna Christie), Southwark Playhouse's The Hairy Ape has feverish intimacy, buckets of sweat and some fine performances to recommend it. It starts off with the classic story template of the poor man affronted by a rich arrogant girl and setting out for revenge (see Wuthering Heights, Rich Man Poor Man). But no cheesy enjoyment of wish fulfilment follows. Instead, we get the portrait of a wannabe terrorist. The rich arrogant girl disappears from the story and the degraded man stews in newly discovered tribal hatred and fragile unstable personality collapse. Indeed, the caged indignity and bruised ego of Bill Ward's furious character, Yank, can easily be compared to the historical plight of Catholics in Northern Ireland or Palestinians in Gaza or anyone not white in apartheid South Africa. The play shows how being treated like an ape makes one become apelike. It's obvious but powerful, and Bill Ward was built to play a character like this, so primal is his physique and his mumbling affronted rage. It's an excellent and intimate production but a massive downer, as O'Neill plainly intended it to be. 4 STARS.

#2 xanderl


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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:50 PM

Wow, a depressing O' Neill play rather than his usual laugh riots ;)

Thanks for the review
"witty ... both made me laugh but also gave me pause" - Mark Shenton, The Stage

#3 mallardo


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Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:00 PM

I saw a production of it a few years ago and it made a strong impression on me. A much better play than The Emperor Jones which it somewhat resembles in style. I'll be heading down to Southwark this week.
Excuse me if I seem jejune
I promise I'll find my marbles soon.

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