Partick Stewart stars; what else could it be but a full house?
Edward Bond‘s play (full title Bingo: Scenes of Death and Money) comes to us from the Chichester Festival Theatre which is currently enjoying as many transfers as a restless footballer. Though sadly, for us, the play turns out to have nothing to do with the game of chance so beloved of working class women of popular imagination and Victoria Wood sketches. Would that it had been.
Mr Stewart plays an ageing Shakespeare (although on the evidence of Act 1 it could be anyone) who has signed a contract to protect his rented land on condition that he won’t interfere with land enclosures which will shaft the local peasants.
And if the opening scene where a seemingly defeated Shakespeare is in a state (28) as he struggles with his conscience over this decision sounds dull to you, believe us it is. Listening to someone describe a delayed journey into work stuck on the Brighton line (59) would surely prove more electrifying.
To perk this tedium up and to add dramatic tension an old man clips a hedge affecting an accent and look which put Andrew in mind of Bayleaf the gardener from The Herbs before getting up to tricks (46) with a dirty Gertie (30) behind this neatly clipped bush. The peasants are getting shafted all over the place.
It’s all so dreary that the Whingers were grasping at straws to get them through to the interval. They admired the bark strewn on the YV’s stage pitying the stagehands who have to clean the floor (54) the use of a garden gate (8) on the steps (39) of one of the aisles, were astonished when Shakespeare revealed that his property didn’t have a thatch and perked considerably when Stewart called out “House!” thinking the play was going to spin on it’s head and suddenly live up to the title.*
The one saving grace (68) (SPOILER ALERT) was the body of the beggar woman who has been executed for arson and having droopy drawers (44) positioned on a gibbet high above the back of the stage in scene 3 (cup of tea). So convincing is the dummy, we assumed it was the actress exercising an extraordinary feat of breath control. It was impossible to concentrate on anything else and was a most welcome distraction from the humourless plodding of the play.
So what do we conclude from what we saw of Bingo? That Mr Bond is a bit PC (49) and is airing his strop that Shakespeare was a bit of a shit, more interested in number one (Kelly’s eye) and his old age pension (65) than the welfare of others despite being widely considered a keen chronicler of the human condition? Impossible to care.
And anyway, we have no way of knowing: the Whingers were asked to leave their front row seats at the interval (“for the set change”) and despite being halfway there (45) took no persuading to get up and run (31). The clickety click (66) of their heels could be heard on The Cut as they hoofed it back to their respective housey-houseys.
We were certainly not alone. It may have been a full house for Act 1, but we could only feel that for those who stayed it would be unlucky for some (13).
* Well, not entirely unrelated to the game apparently. If you’re wondering about the title (we were) Bond once explained the title in an interview, “Art has very practical consequences. Most ‘cultural appreciation’ ignores this and is no more relevant than a game of ‘Bingo’ and less honest.” Indeed.