Saturday, 15 March 2014

Once in Royal Davids City, Belvoir

Michael Gow's latest play returns to the autobiographical strain that he's used with "Furious" and "Toy Symphony", though this time he's renamed his protagonist and turned the anger down a little. An exploration of grief, of how and why we tell stories, of Brechtian epic-theatre and of simple moments of compassion, it's an intriguing 100 minutes, though not, as it currently stands, completely satisfying.

The play is very dependant on the lead performance by Brendan Cowell, and I found him a little bit ... disengaging here. Much of the play is his extensive rants on theatre and politics, and this would appear to require a more full-blooded performance than what Cowell serves up. He's sardonic and witty as the dialogue requires, but a bit more heat would have helped an interesting collection of ideas turn into something more emotionally engaging.

The rest of the cast appears in what amounts to brief cameos. Helen Morse as Cowell's mother has fire and energy in her early performances, but then is confined to bed in a coma and can offer nothing more. Tara Morice is wonderfully entitled as a private school teacher who insists "socialism doesn't matter any more", but ... again, her character disappears shortly afterwards.

In short, I felt like I was offered appetisers and I wanted a full meal from this one.

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