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El Peter

Member Since 14 Feb 2007
Offline Last Active Today, 12:10 AM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: The Silver Tassie- National Theatre

Today, 12:08 AM

I admit I was helped by the purchase of a theatre programme and being given an idea beforehand of the play's form and content, and what the controversy had been about at the time. I realised too just how much a writer like O'Casey must have been influenced by European developments in theatre by the late 1920s. The O'Casey not bothered about anyone else's cosy notions of what a play should look and sound like, or of the kind of people it is about, or of what it is saying, particularly in this kind of play is part of his enduring charm.

A Taste of Honey shows what Shelagh Delaney and Theatre Workshop did a couple of years before the arrival in 1960 of the clearly influenced Coronation Street on ITV. This here play did in 1928/29 what Oh What a Lovely War would do once and with the same bloody conflict, in the early 1960s. A lot will find itself on screen and stage this year because of the centenary of the war's outbreak, among them new works from our contemporaries, but here in these older classics can be sensed the authentic, conflictual and pioneering nature of what they had done in the face of romanticised and Establishment versions. Of interest too is that in The Silver Tassie the writer does not mention Ireland once, he seeming to be saying something of far wider application and significance to the war crippled and bereaved of country after country post-1918.

In Topic: Hotel

Yesterday, 11:41 PM

I recall preferring the look and the use of the previous National Theatre website, though have got the hang of this latest one now. The website for the BFI next door has been enough for me to give up membership, so frustrating was trying to navigate its board.  A site should be as clear, simple and straightforward as possible yet still after all these years the user experience is so varied.

I agree about the need for a good theatre layout to help intending ticket buyers. Thanks for the tip about understanding The Shed's way of assigning seats.

In Topic: The Silver Tassie- National Theatre

Yesterday, 06:52 PM

I saw this at the first preview on Tuesday evening and was absorbed by it while also thinking it a strange play. It was cheered to the rafters at final curtain and deservedly so for what is another well-directed Howard Davies production, with the stage-design and sound-design of the production as striking and just right.

It has four acts. The first centres round the homecoming of a victorious sporting hero with the team's trophy, the silver tassie. The third is set in a hospital ward where we see him in a wheelchair. The fourth act is set at a postwar Armistice party back home, but with the angry protagonist among those marginalised men disinclined to celebrate.

What is unusual is the second act, written by O'Casey and presented here in Expressionist style that tries to capture the madness and scale of the bloody Western Front 1914-18. It is like a dream sequence, heavy on symbolism and with songs ands some evocative music, with bullets and shells flying, all in order to express the nightmare experience of front-line fighting, defiance and fear of what has been happening month in and month out for years. This second act stands out, but will not be to everyone's taste because of the leap of imagination involved and its apparent disconnection to acts one and three. Yes, a couple to our right did not return after the interval, and three or four more a few rows behind. But the famous O'Casey plays always had that aspect to them, and the experimental nature of this today is still as perplexing as it must have seemed on paper to Yeats who rejected it for the Abbey.   

It is not a play to enjoy, for despite the characteristic black humour of the writer it is too serious and too angry to do that. This is not the World War One of its last very aged wheel-chaired fussed over military survivors in the late 1990s/early 2000s. No, this is an anti-war play written and staged just over ten years after the Armistice, when the human wreckage of the global conflict was all about, or dying off or just hidden away. The point at which 'a land fit for heroes' when fighting was over, had turned out to be bogus. This play's premiere, in London, staged just days before the 1929 Wall Street Crash, with years of Slump and Great Depression still to follow (along with another world war).

It is irritating, it is disputatious, it is lop-sided, disconnected — perhaps what O'Casey was trying to capture about that war. We left the theatre thoughtful and intrigued at what we had seen and heard. This morning I browsed the web a little and found a couple of articles about an earlier production of this play, that others may find helpful in understanding what I am trying to convey here.



In Topic: The Silver Tassie- National Theatre

26 March 2014 - 09:10 PM

I bought an Advance NT membership for the year in order to be sure of getting tickets for The Silver Tassie. I didn't get quite what i wanted but did get tickets for a preview. After that was nailed down I bought tickets for another play and three 'platform' events, the first last Saturday on Shelagh Delaney and Manchester/Northern writing and drama.

O'Casey was a superb writer and an important writer not just of plays — read his autobiography, for instance, or the later journalism — who was shrewd in his assessment of characters and events in the times he lived through. A progressive writer who told certain fellow Irish people what they did not want to hear but which he thought it essential to point out about the country from the 1913 Great Dublin Lock-Out through the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.  

In this centenary year of the 1914-18 inter-imperialist war, The Silver Tassie is certainly worth a run.

In Topic: A Taste Of Honey

21 March 2014 - 05:03 PM

I don't think it's in the wrong space. Which space is it supposed to be in at the National?

For instance, I attended an early preview of Pitmen Painters in the Cottesloe a few years ago and straight away thought 'This play would surely pack 'em in, so why is it in this small space?'. Its next run there shortly afterwards had it in the Lyttelton, I think it was, and i saw it there too.

The play inspired by Joan Didion's writing about her bereavement wasn't shy about putting Vanessa Redgrave in one of the two big theatres there.

I saw An Inspector Calls over the river at the Aldwych in 1994, set in that memorable set of a house that opened up to reveal a family gathering, but where had that first been staged at the National?

I guess it's some consideration of play-type, star-appeal and likely audience interest, that decides these things.

A Taste of Honey didn't strike me as too long. Five characters only, yet it packed a lot in and we could savour each performance.

Roots is broadcast on Radio 3 this coming Sunday, providing a chance to compare these plays.