Peter Nichols' new play, set in 1955, shows the generation that came of age during the Second World War finding themselves somewhat adrift in the seemingly valueless and purposeless years that followed.
I stress that it
is a new play, not just because it has an old-fashioned and old-news
feel about it, but because John Osborne and Arnold Wesker (not to
mention a host of others) beat him to it by fifty years, and with
considerably more passion, analysis and reality than this oddly
enervated, almost drama-less drama offers.
young Englishman in a second-rate language school in Italy, along with
other misfits and just-passing-throughs - a White Russian, an asexual
aesthete, an unreconstructed Nazi, a hearty Australian feminist, an
English girl desperate for a man.
three-quarters of the play virtually nothing happens, not even a sense
of anything these barely-sketched-in stereotypes have in common. Our
hero sleeps with the German girl though he detests her while letting
the English girl fall in love with him, and then a totally irrelevant
crisis breaks up the school and allows the theme of rootlessness and
searching-for-something-to-believe-in to get stated.
is a valid
subject, and we can only regret that Nichols has little to add to what
his contemporaries had to say about it a half-century ago. We can also
regret that he didn't get a better premiere production than this one
directed by Michael Gieleta.
have seen almost
everyone in the cast before, and know that they can do good work, so
why name and shame? Here they are almost equally divided
the overly bland and the overly shrill, some unable to create any sense
of a character at all, others rising only to the level of cliché or
cartoon - which means that I must once again invoke Berkowitz's Law:
when everyone in the cast is poor, and poor in the same ways, they're
just following orders, and the fault is the director's.
Perhaps it was lack of resources or rehearsal time, perhaps lack of sympathy with or understanding of the play. But however little Peter Nichols gave him to work with, Michael Gieleta has added less than the play - and his cast - needed or deserved.
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- Lingua Franca - Finborough 2010