MAKING IT BETTER
Hampstead Theatre, London NW3
Opened 11 February, 1992

James Saunders never frames his dramatic questions in a way that expects a particular answer; it's the process of interrogation that matters, and he ensures arresting patterns of light and shadow along the way. Here the marriage of two World Service producers breaks up and each takes a Czech lover: Diana's Josef is an older emigré who still retains the ideals of the Prague Spring (the play is set on the eve of the Velvet Revolution), Adrian's Tomas a student looking after number one, and prepared to inform on his compatriots for his own ends. When Tomas meets Diana, the oppositions among the quartet idealism and pragmatism, activity and passivity (Jane Asher's Diana is a consummate passive-manipulator, persuading others that the initiatives are theirs) and each character's individual strain of selfishness flare up.

The final scene and a half make rather an unseemly rush to a shapely close, but can't dissipate the potency of the preceding a juxtaposition of bourgeois sexual vexations with political upheaval, neither belittling nor aggrandising either unduly. Saunders has a painterly way with perspective and composition, and Making It Better is an understated, masterly portrait.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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