I hope you are having a nice time at your mother’s.
Strange that you should have to go and see her on the very weekend that I had tickets for Be Near Me at the Donmar Warehouse. Sometimes I think you don’t really like the theatre at all.
If so, why didn’t you tell me? I suppose you thought it would be funny.
Anyway, I ended up taking Neil. We had a nice chat before the show and he was very enthusiastic about the theatre and its origins as a form of debate in ancient Greece and how powerful it still is today – how amazing it is that a group of people come together in a room for a shared experience.
He didn’t mention anything on the subject after the show.
Anyway, did I mention that nothing happened for the first half of the play? Well, I say “nothing”; I’m sure you would have derived great excitement from seeing steaming lettuce soup consumed and real, live rhubarb-chopping (a first?); in the second act there was a steaming burgundy fish soup and the main character, Father David Anderton (McDiarmid), is a rather camp wine buff – I think you two would have got on quite well although, as it turns out, you would be a bit old for him.
You will also be interested to hear that the Donmar stage has been done out with a very nice parquet flooring although the back wall is now made of corrugated iron. It’s sort of Changing Rooms meets Scrapyard Challenge, if I may put it into terms you would understand.
I suppose I should tell you what it’s “about”, but I think the short answer would be “everything”. Certainly everything seemed to be touched on along the way – religion, the global economy, teenagers today, Scotchness, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, cancer, homosexuality and paedophilia. But I don’t think it was about any of these things. It was probably about something much deeper but I couldn’t tell you what it was.*
By the way, there was a park bench scene. I know your hackles rise whenever a park bench is carried onto a stage but they used two chairs instead of an actual park bench so I think you would have approved.
They kept bringing on a rug and unrolling it onto the floor and then rolling it up again at the end of the scene. Perhaps when you are back in London we can sneak backstage and I’ll roll you up in the rug between scenes so you can make an appearance like Amanda Barrie in Carry On Cleo. That would liven things up.
To be fair, though, it was quite impressive when the chandelier crashed to the floor – much better than the lame attempt in Phantom.
In what little is left of your lifetime you are unlikely ever to see this play so I’ll tell you the plot which – when it eventually arrives in the last five minutes of Act One – amounts to the fact that during a booze and drug fuelled evening 60 year old Father Anderton plants a kiss on the cheek of the 15 year old schoolboy Mark (Richard Madden) before they pass out on the floor and are discovered by his housekeeper Mrs Poole (Blythe Duff) the next morning.
When the news eventually gets out, Anderton’s house is burnt down and he has to go to court to face charges of sexual assault of a minor.
It wasn’t very convincing, not least because if Richard Madden is 15 then I’m a Dutchman. But it was also a bit creepy because the audience’s loyalties are uncompromisingly assumed to lie with Anderton; indeed, it is written this way: Mark is just a bit of a tosser really. Perhaps it’s different in the book (“Was David wrong to see intelligence and tenderness in Mark? He was the only one who was looking”, it says in The Guardian‘s review. Well no-one else seemed to detect any such qualities in him.
There was some good acting. McDiarmid is, of course, magnificent. Neil and I also enjoyed Blythe Duff as the housekeeper Mrs Poole. She played Jackie Reid in Taggart, apparently although I never watched that because of the accents. Interestingly, even the National Theatre of Scotland’s website notes that “This production of Be Near Me contains scenes, language and songs which may cause offence”. Well, I’d call it a dialect rather than a language, but yes. And songs, yes, songs are always offensive.**
Anyway, I know I said that I would pop round to yours to feed your pets, water your plants and switch your lights on to confuse the burglars but I’m afraid I’ve lost the will to live somewhat.
I hope you had a good weekend.
* According to the Donmar it is a compelling story about love, morality and regret.
** This does not apply to musicals, obviously.