Review – Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?

Tuesday 21 November 2006

drunk_enough_stars_and_stripes_thumbnail1.JPGCaryl Churchill (Cloud Nine, Top Girls) will probably be gratified to learn that her “eagerly awaited” new play prompted deep philosophical debate between the West End Whingers, albeit not the kind she was probably hoping for.

Dilemma 1: WEW want to have their metaphorical theatrical cake and eat it. We like short (it leaves more wine time) but we also like value.

At 40 minutes short, this show offered little value but plenty of valuable post-show Merlot-minutes. Nevertheless, neither Phil nor Andrew got drunk enough to say they loved it. Sobriety didn’t help either.

The running time is advertised as 50 minutes but either the actors are dashing through their lines ever faster to get through it (understandable) or the Royal Court does not wish to admit to a offering a 40 minute fare; in fact it began slightly late, presumably to stretch it out into a night’s “entertainment”.

Drunk Enough To Say I Love You? features two performers: Ty Burrell* and Stephen Dillane* who represent the USA and Britain. They are called Sam and Jack (Uncle Sam and John Bull-geddit?) and are apparently in some sort of gay relationship.

But Ms Churchill eschews out-moded bourgeois theatrical notions of plot and character development. Instead she elects to present us with two tedious cyphers who launch into discussions about Anglo-American foreign policy. We say discussions but actually it’s a fragmented monologue divided between two people.

The Royal Court website boasts a Sunday Telegraph quote: “The hallowed home of modern British drama”, well let’s get ’em under the trade description act here. Drama? WEW saw none on this stage.

Even the style grates. Irritatingly, neither of the characters completes any of his sentences – every one is left hanging in the air. And they don’t so much interrupt each other as pause waiting for the next fractured political meandering to be inserted.It’s like an NW3 liberal’s political hit list.

Now WEW love a good whinge. That is, after all, their raison d’etre . But even these measly 40 minutes were far too long to bear listening to Ms Churchill. It was like being beaten over the head with a rolled up copy of The Guardian.

Ever sat next to that mad person on the bus who insists on telling you what’s wrong with the world? Imagine them subjecting you to a series of unilluminating, disjointed sound bites on Vietnam, Guatemala, Iran, Korea, torture, pollution ad nauseum. That’s what this was like. We confidently predict that Ms Churchill never has to share her seat on the No. 24 to Hampstead for long.

Anyway, back to the running time and Moral Dilemma 2: Ms Churchill throws Kyoto into the pot which led the West End whingers to reflect on the fact that these days we are advised that we shouldn’t really take flights for weekend breaks, and if we really must fly, we should go away for longer and less often. Or feel guilty about it.

Now isn’t Drunk Enough…? at 40 minutes the theatre equivalent of a weekend break? We trailed across town leaving our size 7 and 9 (respectively) carbon footprints all over the capital. And for what? 40 minutes in the theatre. Aren’t we morally bound to attend longer plays but less frequently?

And talking of carbon footprints, Ty Burrell was flown here all the way from the (evil) United States to take part. And was designer Eugene Lee already working here on Wicked and just pop over one stop on the Circle Line to design the “set” in his lunch break?

By the way, it took two American casting directors to cast Ty Burrell. How many do you think it takes to change an energy efficient lighbulb?

Anyway, the set which was designed by Eugene Lee who famously splurged on the original Sweeney Todd and Wicked with extremely busy designs.

Eugene obviously wants to prove he can do minimal. The proscenium is surrounded by bright light bulbs (eek!) to heighten the pitch blackness of the stage. An isolated sofa (metaphor or true sofa? we’re not sure) rises slightly between each scene, appearing to float magically over the stage while props appear from and disappear into nowhere. Andrew thought the design was wonderful.

Indeed it gave our minds somewhere welcome to wander. Yours will too as you find yourself wondering how the stage hands silently deliver and catch the props. It’s a welcome relief from the incessant staccato dialogue.

As the sofa finally ascended to the flies Andrew’s perplexed, “Is that it?” said it all. But then perhaps Andrew’s question was deeper than that. Some kind of metaphor, perhaps? Who can tell?

* Interestingly (to Phil, anyway) both actors have both played a celluloid husband of Nicole Kidman. Burrell played Allan Arbus to Kidman’s Diane in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus ; Dillane played Leonard Woolf to Kidman’s Virginia in The Hours.

6 Responses to “Review – Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?”

  1. Ben Says:

    Did you like anything about the play or staging? Just wondered… I had a mixed reaction but didn’t feel as whingey as you on this one.

  2. andreworange Says:

    Hi Ben. Thanks for your comment. Andrew *did* think that the design was wonderful (buried somewhere in our ramblings above) but the Royal Court must live or die by its rather sniffy view that “the play’s the thing”. I think they probably use the word “text” a lot too. They refuse to engage with any of the peripheral trappings of theatre (no actor biogs, no glossy programme, but you can buy the “text” if you want). So I’m afraid they must be judged entirely upon the play. Which was awful.

  3. Matt Says:

    sorry boys, but i disagree.
    the play – performed and read – has huge echoes of sloganism and jingoism; rhetorical bullshit mainly peddled by the US. surely the best way to show that the play was diseccting this was with churchill’s (once again) brilliantly acute handling of (fragmented) language in the play.
    also, i think most scholars would agree that your tag-line’s final word is spelt MarlowE, not Marlow.
    uninformed on both counts, but never mind…


  4. Well, Matt, we have to admit that intellectually it went way over our heads, so what do we know?

    Thanks for pointing out our spelling error. We laugh when we think of all the august visitors who either didn’t notice it or were too polite to mention it. On the subject of spelling, “diseccting” is actually spelt “dissecting”

  5. Francesca Says:

    Hi there, while we’re in this spelling correction bonanza: ad nauseam, not ad nauseum! Loved your review, hated the play! Kepp it up, you guys feel my boring hours at work with endless delight!

  6. Francesca Says:

    Oh dear, it never ends: that would have been keep it up ehm


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