Thursday, October 25, 2007

Life After Scandal - Robin Soans


I've bought The Times a couple of times recently, and been surprised and weary at what a scandal rag it is. Can't we do better in this great and troubled world than find people's underwear to sniff through?
Robin Soans' Life After Scandal opened at the Plymouth Drum Theatre last night (fresh from Hampstead Theatre, the two theatres within walking distance of my homes). It's peopled by characters familiar to British newspaper readers ... disgraced politicians and peers mostly. These characters(played by a splendid troupe of actors)shared tea with the author Robin Soans and talked through the experience of riding through the aftermath of a scandal. The playwright has then removed himself, leaving the audience in his wake, characters addressing us in 'verbatim theatre', structured out of their actual words.
I'm coming to admire this form of playwriting ... all very artful and selective (while a lot is edited out, the barks of pet dogs remain in the script), while the language of course is marvellously individuated and surprisingly powerful. Lord Montagu, now eighty, speaks us through the trauma of being a jailed victim of the state's homophobic attacks in the 1950s, for example. Edwina Currie shows us the wronged woman taking revenge on her lover, the prime minister John Major. Some characters, like the couple Neil and Christine Hamilton, were very buoyant,. transcending the joke they've been forced to make of themselves in order to survive. Major Charles Ingram was somehow the most moving, still very much the major, clinging on to the pieces of a wrecked life after accusations of cheating on 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'.
It's an effort to reach into others' lives with real sympathy. The audience of all these characters, their articulacy, their sincerity, was a surprising privilege. Subtle and powerful theatre.

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