PROMPT CORNER 01–02/2008
Happy Now? / The Vertical Hour
Various venues
January, 2008

[...] The year starts with as varied a selection of work as you’re ever likely to encounter.  An exotic spectacle in a tent (Afrika! Afrika!), a couple of misconceived former-Soviet biographical pieces (The President’s Holiday at Hampstead, which has elicited raised eyebrows by receiving an increase in ACE funding, and The British Ambassador’s Bellydancer, in which Nadia Murray’s lack of stage experience has not prevented the show’s transfer by the time you read this into the Arts Theatre in the West End), and the apparent vanity project An Audience With The Mafia, of which Andrew Haydon asked me whether it would be advisable for his first published Financial Times review to carry a rating of no stars at all.  At the National, Lucinda Coxon’s Happy Now? has received warm reviews, but I’m afraid a combination of the uncomfortable domestic events onstage and developing illness meant I had to leave it at the interval (unlike the well-known actor sitting in front of me, who had been discreetly enjoying a pre-show spliff).  I’m less apologetic about having seen only 20-odd hours of the 50-hour Improvathon; the days when I would take in the entire 24-hour cycle The Warp at one sitting are, alas, behind me now. 

David Hare’s The Vertical Hour finally received its British première some 14 months after its Broadway opening, and failed to set the arts world alight.  Very nice lighting design by Howard Harrison, reminiscent of some of Robert Wilson’s painting-with-light stage vistas, but as for the writing, I genuinely thought for some time that the first tutorial-room scene was a gentle parody of David Mamet, and later when one character exclaimed, “People aren’t their views, you know. They aren’t their opinions. They aren’t just what they say,” I was hard pressed not to laugh out loud.
Written for Theatre Record.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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