Daily Archives: August 18, 2014

Minetti

EIF THEATRE
Minetti
3 stars ***
Royal Lyceum Theatre

ON A BLASTED heath, or on a rain-soaked beach at Ostend, the old and ageing must always acknowledge, at some point, that their useful and sought-after lives are coming to an end.  Thomas Bernhard’s 1976 play Minetti – almost a monologue, but with peripheral cast and chorus – examines this late-life crisis through the character of a 69-year-old actor, named for a real-life star of German theatre and film, who arrives at an Ostend hotel on a stormy New Year’s Eve, for a supposed meeting with an artistic director who wants to revive his career by casting him as King Lear.

The actor’s life gently mirrors the story of Lear, with early success as young artistic director followed – after a rash creative decision to “turn his back on the classics”  – by failure, exile, obscurity and loss; and so as the evening wears on, he rambles and repeats himself and waits, while the artistic director, like a latterday Godot, fails to arrive.

It’s difficult to avoid the feeling that Bernhard’s text places an exaggerated emphasis on the life of the artist as a metaphor for life in general; when Minetti asks a beautiful girl in the hotel bar  why she is listening to him at all, the audience are probably asking themselves the same question.  It’s fascinating, though, to watch director Tom Cairns wrap this slim 100-minute text in a production full of rich 1970’s detail and gorgeous visual effects. And the show is made eloquent by a series of fine performances, not only from Peter Eyre as a defiant Minetti, but from Sian Thomas and Victoria Pollack as his sharply-sketched lady listeners, and from an ensemble of 15 young extras who surge through the hotel lobby celebrating the New Year, and conjuring up the vibrant, careless river of life that Minetti now watches passing by, from his own bleak shoreline between life and death.

Joyce McMillan
Until 18
p. 15

ENDS ENDS

The Flood

THEATRE
The Flood
3 stars ***
Summerhall (Venue 26)

IN A BASEMENT space at Summerhall a man is throwing small piees of chopped liver at a metal plate screwed to a rough brick wall.  In the repetitive style often adopted by Badac – a company dedicated to portraying oppression in all its forms – he goes through the ritual of throwing the liver not once or twice, but five or six times.  The idea is to conjure up the horror of repeated attacks on the Western Front during the First World War.  The soldier hears the call to arms, prays or mutters, goes over the top, charges, throws the bloody mess at the wall; then his sweetheart, a nurse, comes and clears the liver into a bucket, delicately sewing and patching some pieces of it, discarding others.

The presence of this bloody mess is meant, of course, to conjure up the utter carnage of the western front; the trouble is that the image is both too literal and too small to begin to encompass the horrror of the trenches.  Elsewhere in this play, though, there is some fine writing and acting, particularly around the character of the nurse, who tries to keep the spectre of her fiance’s death at bay by the sheer force of her love; and Steve Lambert’s text –  partly inspired by Vera Britain’s Testament Of Youth – shows a deep and sometimes lyrical understanding of how millions of survivors lost the future that would have given their lives meaning, in this mighty explosion of state-organised violence.

Joyce McMillan
Until 24
p. 305

ENDS ENDS