Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court, London SW1
Opened 14 March, 2002

*** Bizarre 15-minute piece that's all a matter of style

Martin Crimp's playlet seems to be about how presentation distracts us from content, but don't quote me on that it's just plain weird.

Three people appear to be holding a script discussion about a story involving a mass murderer of schoolchildren. But we know that this is an artificial performance, because one of them keeps taking prompts (all written into the script), which drive him to increasing fury. After several minutes of this, he steps behind a microphone and starts booming a blues song about a character peripheral to the original story. Then, after a quarter of an hour, it's over. Confused? Yep, me too.

The only thing I can see linking these various devices is that they all have the effect of making us pay more attention to the way the words are delivered than to what those words say, so that we treat these bleak stories, and even the wild outburst against the prompter, as amusing entertainment. A woman behind me in the audience told her companion that Samuel Beckett described his short plays as "taking an idea for a walk", and that seems to fit Crimp's brief piece and Katie Mitchell's production staged under the same rules as the main show which precedes it, Nightsongs. No real destination; just a curious theatrical stroll.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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