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 The Theatreguide.London Review


The Pope's Wedding
Cock Tavern Theatre   Autumn 2010

The Cock Tavern's Edward Bond season continues with his first produced play from 1962, which proves to be weakly focused and awkwardly structured, further muddied by particularly poor direction.

The play opens with a group of young farm workers hanging about after work, trying to think of anything to do, the only minimal pleasures in their lives seemingly the occasional drink and occasional local cricket match.

The play seems to be narrowing its attention to the star of the cricket, but abruptly drops him to turn to one of the others, who is in a marriage that is no more satisfying than anything else in his life.

At first grudgingly but then with growing enthusiasm, he begins visiting and caring for an old man of the village, and it looks like his life is finding some value, but an abrupt, offstage and never explained piece of violence brings an end to any hopes.

A first and basic failing of the play is that it doesn't seem to have any point. A programme note says it is about 'the decline of rural society in the face of urban advances', but no connection is ever made between the farm work (except that it's hard and boring) and either the general glumness or the violent ending, and there is no suggestion that things were ever better - the only photograph in the old man's house is one he bought in a shop decades ago.

We're never told why the relationship between the younger and older men suddenly turns sour, but it does not seem to be 'the decline of rural society'. So all we have is a young man who happens to be a farm worker and happens to be in an unhappy marriage and happens to befriend an older man and happens to do something violent, none of these elements appearing to be connected in any clear way.

Perhaps I'm being unfair to the playwright, because director Conrad Blakemore has done little to clarify and much to get in the way of the play.

The occasional wavering accent aside, this production offers no sense of time or place, and little of character or reality. In the opening scenes the actors stand around, their internal lights turned off, until a longer-than-expected pause alerts one to his cue and he turns on, blurts out his line, and then turns off again.

The scenes have no pacing, rhythm or forward momentum, and the actor in what eventually becomes the central role plays each moment in a vacuum, with no sense of how one leads to another or what is happening to him internally - and without that emotional arc, that clear line of how he gets from here to there and ultimately to that out-of-nowhere there, the play just doesn't exist.

You will note that I have not named any actors. They are all clearly following orders, and those failures of this revival that are not inherent in the script must all be blamed on the director.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Pope's Wedding - Cock Tavern 2010