Sunday, April 02, 2006

Peter Shaffer and the Inca Trail

When I first came to know about theatre, Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun was one of those plays I longed to see one day. As a teenager I saw several productions of Equus, which altered me. Shaffer became my model dramatist. Stephen Spender was my model critic, the only problem with him being that he oculd not get Shaffer - he found his writing educational and pedestrian.
Last night an ambition was realized - I was at a sold-out preview of The Royal Hunt of the Sun at the National Theatre. The result? Spender is restored for me, Shaffer diminished.
I'm grateful for the love I have had of Shaffer's work in the past, but this was pedestrian stuff - like an educational show on the Incas to be trawled around schools. Maybe the earnest production did no favours - I could not believe the Andes were conjured by white sheets and the Incan dances were basically pleasant but effete, no raw power there at all.
In truth, it was dreary - verbose and artificial. There was much more life, variety and entertainment to be found in the parade of people and buskers on the South Bank.
Maybe I've just grown up.
The picture of Macchu Picchu is my own - there's more theatre in that ruin than in the National Theatre revival, so enjoy!


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