It Still Goes On
Finborough Theatre Summer 2018
A never-produced play by poet-novelist Robert Graves (I Claudius), But It Still Goes On is a bit of a mess structurally and thematically.And this rather sluggish production does little to make it hang together or come dramatically alive.
It was commissioned in 1932 by a producer looking for another Great War drama like Journey's End. But what he got, and chose not to put on, is an analysis and muddled depiction of all that Graves considered wrong with the post-war world.
The characters make up a sort of minor-league Bloomsbury Set – a successful if trivial popular poet-novelist, his less successful writer son, a rival poet, a woman doctor, an architect and various relatives and hangers-on.
The younger writer is convinced that a major moral and social catastrophe occurred fifteen or twenty years earlier – not the Great War, which was more effect than cause, but a loss of all the moral and cultural certitudes on which society was built. (The title is his oft-expressed wonder that life carries on without them.)
As if to demonstrate his thesis he plays a string of whimsical and potentially deadly practical jokes on the others, while the behaviour of some of the others also seems to illustrate the loss of a moral compass.
A homosexual man and a lesbian both marry innocent others just to use them as beards, an army surplus revolver has a deadly fascination for anyone who holds it, and by play's end several characters are dead, at their own hand or another's.
Either to dramatise the moral chaos or just because he's not a strong dramatist, Graves constantly switches modes, tones and even characterisations.
Scenes of sub-Coward wit alternate with serious philosophising and soap-opera level melodrama. Individual comic or serious moments might work, only to be undercut by the very different moment that follows.
The man who insists that all conventional morality is dead is the one most conventionally outraged by discovering the two homosexuals' schemes. A woman introduced as the most level-headed of the group turns into a vindictive witch while one who starts as the butt of ridicule becomes tragic.
Director Fidelis Morgan is unable to make any of this hang together or to guide her hard-working actors to the creation of consistent or coherent characters.
A minor 'lost' work by a relatively minor writer generates some legitimate interest. But this lifeless production can find too little other than curiosity value in But It Still Goes On.
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Review - But It Still Goes On - Finborough Theatre 2018