Thursday, 12 April 2012

Play House/Definitely the Bahamas.

To the Orange Tree this evening to see a double bill of work by the wonderful Martin Crimp. It's also his debut as a director, an event that has by and large slipped under press radar.

The combination of work has been carefully chosen. First up Play House a new play: 13 short scenes detailing a modern relationship as a young couple try and make sense of their dream, only to watch their words crumble in mid air and come crashing down as destructive insults. This is followed after the interval by a earlier piece, Definitely the Bahamas, written in 1987, which depicts a retired middle class couple trying to finding meaning in their comfortable and complacent lives, proudly, if gently showing off the achievements of their son Martin, who as the play unfolds is revealed in dispatches to be a thoroughly bigoted and nasty piece of work. Essentially this a Crimpian comparison between himself as a young man writing a play about late middle age and, twenty five years later, himself as a middle aged man writing about young love.

If any development is visible over this quarter century it is that of setting. The world of Play House seems vacuous, devoid of clutter or back story. It's a picture of an interchangable generation. A professional urban elite ambitious for themselves, but desperate not to offend. Their relationship with global politics is informed, but, in order, perhaps, to protect their own sense of a 'life well lived' kept at arms length. It's a desolate portrait and for all the ostentatious conversations about taste, style and holiday destinations of the eighties couple, you can't help feeling there's a mild sense of nostalgia for the security of fixed opinions and rock solid pensions.

What links the two pieces is a forensic analysis of the way language raises and crushes expectation. Crimp is remorseless in uncovering the parameters of communication. Each of the four main protagonists, to a greater of lesser extent, use words as a coercive force, choosing to frame their experience of the world in ways that, from the very off, set them on a path of self-delusion or ruin. The chilling thing for many of us in the audience is how closely these choices reflect our own. This probing approach uncovers the latent intolerance at the heart of many of our closest relationships.

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