Review – Bash: Latterday Plays

Wednesday 17 January 2007

Bash logoIf nothing else, Bash: Latterday Plays occupies an interesting minor footnote in theatre history as the play which resulted in the “disfellowship” of Mormon playwright Neil LaBute from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (disfellowship being a Mormon rap on the knuckles apparently).

The West End Whingers’ religion is more Merman than Mormon, but Andrew was nevertheless dispatched to the Trafalgar Studios to check what all the fuss was about.

Bash: Latterday Plays comprises three short plays – Iphigenia in Orem, A Gaggle of Saints and Medea Redux – each of which is essentially a monologue delivered by a Mormon confessing to a violent crime. LaBute himself directed the first production of these “re-tellings of Greek myths” off-Broadway in 2000 with a cast which included Ally McBeal actress Calista Flockhart.

This new production in the tiny (three rows deep) Trafalgar Studio 2 features powerful performances from all four cast members: Harry Lloyd, Juliet Rylance, David Sturzaker and Jodie Whittaker under the direction of Tamara Harvey.

Rylance and Sturzaker are also founders of the Theatre of Memory under whose auspices this production is presented. It apparently:

“…endeavours to explore the essence of theatre within a framework of classical and contemporary texts, seeking to mirror human nature in the 21st Century. It is our belief that through live performance, actors and audiences can create a shared memory and, therefore, a shared identity.”

The Whingers have no idea what this means, but the play works surprisingly well considering that watching it involves being talked to for 100 uninterrupted minutes.

What carries it is the intimacy with which the actors confide to the audience in the tiny space. One gets the feeling that if one did not pay attention, it would be obvious and rather rude. But these are also compelling stories artfully told and – while the whole thing may be rather depressing – one leaves the theatre with a feeling of having experienced something quite real.

But 1 hour 40 minutes is a long time for Andrew to focus on anything and he did find his mind wandering from time to time. The introduction of some props (at last!) for the final part of the trilogy reminded him that he needed to buy some replacement Brita water filters. Yet another example of how the theatre reaches out and influences our daily lives.

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