The Whingers get asked the same question again and again:
“Haven’t you got homes to go to?” “Do you always agree on everything?”
Strangely enough they usually do. As Amber Cole (Jennifer Coolidge) says in A Mighty Wind: “We work together very well. It’s almost as if we have one brain that we share between us.”
But today, speaking terms are somewhat muted and cordiality has been temporarily wiped from the blackboard of their interpersonal menu.
Indeed, not since they sat through the “awful”/”enjoyable enough” (depending on which Whinger you’re listening to) Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks have the Whingers been so divided.
And who would have thought that the Whingers’ favourite, dependable whipping boy – the Royal Court Theatre – would be the cause of such a schism?
Anyway, said theatre describes Bruce Norris‘ play The Pain and The Itch as an “hilarious social satire” which takes a “withering look at phoney liberal values”. The play originated at the famous Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago before a reportedly sell-out run off-Broadway .
It is set in a smart apartment inhabited by house-husband Clay (Matthew Macfadyen), his high-earning wife Kelly (Sara Stewart) and their four year old (?) daughter Kayla (one of three actresses) who has a strange itch.
An incongruously Asian Mr Hadid (Abdi Gouhad) observes the action and occasionally interacts with the characters and we’re not sure where he fits into things.
It started very promisingly. Smart set, snow falling outside, the smell of rabbit hutch (according to Andrew) and some top notch acting as Macfayden and Stewart spark off each other and demonstrate their over-protective, over-intellectualised parenting style.
The play went on to lift up middle class liberal values and peek underneath them and while it may not have found much new, it had wit and sparkle enough to keep one’s attention through the first act and beyond.
Or so Andrew thought. He was awake (unusual for him in the Royal Court) and his disposition was sunny, blithely unaware of the storm clouds rising up at his left shoulder.
Those clouds released their downpour during the interval when Phil – although admitting to having enjoyed the first 10 minutes or so – declared it dull and obvious. He didn’t mention the snow, but said the modernist split level set – and indeed the set-up – reminded him of the vastly superior The Lady from Dubuque. Phil claims he is all for having a pop at dreary liberal parents, but he felt he’d seen it all before thought it a rather easy target. He went on (and on) to say he didn’t find it particularly witty or sharp. In fact it was as blunt as the instrument he wanted to take to Andrew’s head for having such a damn good time.
Clearly what was needed was some third party to arbitrate on the matter and settle is once and for all. As luck would have it bloggers City Slicker Liz and Helen Smith had joined the Whingers on this outing and it seems that Phil must have done some rapid jury-nobbling while Andrew’s back was turned. This he probably achieved by playing the sympathy card – announcing that it was his rather large-round-numbered birthday the next day.
Anyway, for whatever reason they took Phil’s side so it was left to Andrew to ponder whether the play was worth the effort and he still maintains it is. Although some of the satire might be new, the self-absorption and lack of perspective of people for whom being abused as a child can mean “neglect alternating with sarcasm” was – in Andrew’s humble opinion – drawn well. And the idea of what at the most fundamental level children really mean to their parents was – Andrew thought – a rarely expressed view and one worth portraying.
Anyway, it wasn’t all discord. The entire party agreed that the performances were generally excellent. Phil was even quite enjoying the performance by the screaming child, up to the point at which he would cheerfully have throttled the little moppet.
Anyway, for Phil the main value of the evening was the intense smugness he derived from having
blackmailed the rest of the group the approbation of his peers; seeing Andrew in such splendid isolation only increased his delight.
Snapped again: Andrew, City Slicker, Phil, Helen
Paparazzi: Mark II