Thursday, 28 February 2013

God's property

I went to the Soho Theatre last night to see a new play – God's Property, by Arinze Kene. Nigel, who's one of my regular culture companions, and I had realised we were seeing a lot of Shakespeare and opera, but nothing much that was new, so our visit was the result of that. (In fact, it all started when I read Peter Hall's autobiography a couple of weeks ago. Really interesting, and he was somehow breathtakingly ambitious but low on ego. A local boy, too – when Hall was at Cambridge, his father was station master at Whittlesford, the nearest rail station to here. Anyway, there's a great moment when he's about six weeks into his first job as a director of a London theatre, and the script of Waiting For Godot lands on his desk. His experience with that, and his willingness to innovate, made me realise that my theatre experience had got rather fossilised.)

Last night was remarkable. The theatre is a great space, very like the Young Vic and the Donmar, with long benches and no prescenium arch. Below us was an eighties kitchen, and the first thing that happens is that a black guy comes through the door carrying a bag and some groceries. He goes upstairs to see if his Mum is at home. The door opens again for a younger guy with a guitar, and when he sees the first he pulls out a knife. From that moment, the drama never lets up.

There are some lovely moments of humour, but where the play really works well is in ratcheting up the tension. What struck me most is how beautifully it's constructed; the entry of new characters and the revelations of the plot are perfectly paced. There are no lulls, and no false steps. The dialogue is batted to and fro like a ping-pong ball, and the humour feeds into the drama. We were on the edge of our seats for most of the ninety minutes, and I spent the last ten minutes at least in tears.

None of the actors seemed to miss a beat at any point – all four were utterly believable. The lighter scenes also had me almost in tears, remembering what it was like to be sixteen and in love. Ach.

I'm going to be a regular customer of this place, I think. In the bar afterwards, I heard about at least two other plays and one cabaret act that I've just got to see!

More info at the Soho Theatre site.

Also this week.... I read J K Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, and enjoyed it more than I expected to. I don't get on with Harry Potter: Rowling's world never strikes me as fully realised, and the way some characters are realistic and some farcical, so you can't tell who you're meant to take seriously, makes me uncomfortable. This novel avoided those pitfalls, and made the most of her ability to wind a lot of plot strands together. I thought her range was impressive, too: it's the characters at the bottom of the hierarchy who have stayed with me, and they're the ones who don't get to be in many novels.

Oh, and lastly: go and see Medea at English National Opera: it is bloody amazing. 

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