Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Man of the Moment

Up to the Theatre Royal in Northampton to see Kim in Man of the Moment, another Ayckbourn, this time directed by by Sir Alan himself.

It's a clever, and slightly savage, sit com based on the ambitious desire of Jill, a regional TV reporter, to create a gripping documentary by bringing together former bank robber Vic Parkes (Malcolm Sinclair) and 'have a go' hero Douglas Beechy (played brilliantly by Kim), seventeen years after a bodged raid ended up with Vic 'accidentally' firing a shotgun into the face of bank clerk Nerys.

In the intervention Vic has served his time and found fame and fortune as a media star able to switch with ease, if not sincerity, from boisterous bonhomie to 'give me a moment' pathos, as the convention of the camera demands. His semi retirement on the Costa del tax dodge, where the play is set, a reward for a life of public notoriety.

Douglas meanwhile, having married disfigured Nerys, has slipped into obscurity as a double glazing salesman in Purley.

And so with battle lines clearly drawn, the stage is set for a confrontation, for tears, for retribution, mea culpa, patronising celebrity advice and great telly ... or so Jill hopes. The problem is that Doug is happy. He lacks envy, real regret and has no need of closure. He is everything the media hate - a good man, uncynical, hard working, polite and content. The tragedy is he can't win - the cameras are rolling and a drama must be created, by any means possible.

The play was first produced in 1988 - long before 'reality' TV made voyeurism, not only acceptable, but culturally essential; and beyond enjoying the wonderful farce and the elegant craft of Ayckbourn's writing, this revival serves as a reminder of the problems a mediated society has in allowing any sense of relativity to creep into the rating-busting reactionism and moral absolutism, which we're all expected to embrace. In this sense Man of the Moment is a true celebration of the theatre's ability to go where journalists fear to copy.


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