Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Written and rehearsed in a matter of weeks, this late entry to the Fringe is both controversial and well written and performed. It’s a piece of documentary drama by David Garcia. Contains sexually explicit material and most definitely not for under eighteens.
Given its short development cycle, this is a remarkably accomplished piece of writing and docudrama performance. There are some important foundations here – sharp writing, permission to experiment and strong acting.
We’re greeted by a clothed Brendan: "Hands up who likes sex?" "Anyone ever been in a threesome?" "I’m really nervous tonight? "Is this going to be Lady Chatterley?" I ask myself. Cue: Photo of war, trenches, orchestral brass movie music, war graves…All projected onto the back wall…
In 1928, a time of high moral values, in Britain sex is a closed book… But one book is not closed, the paradigm-challenging Lady C…
The delivery in this mix of comedy, confrontational drama and edutainment has a refreshing fluency, the style is direct and engagingly accessible, full of confident and audience-inviting humour. It isn’t just the kimonos that fall down, the fourth wall is ripped away in a way that connects and invites attention.
But will we get to the dirty bits? Isn’t that why we are all here? This is one of several challenges that will be put in front of us as audience, as arbiters, as voyeurs…
Definitions and genres are challenged; love, sex, seduction, love porn, fantasy, reality, all come under the sometimes indiscriminate glare the this play.
The text of the classic book is evoked verbally and physically, the clothes fall away, Lawrence’s words are suddenly poetic and shocking. And the play points to the moral landscape in the book, so absent in porn. This is a play that defends the book with sardonic humour. Suddenly we are asked who has read the book. Five of us, in an audience of fifty. More of us, in turns out, have read J.K. Rowling.
And so, the mediocrity of our (as a society) flight into hypocrisy is laid bare in a play that sets before us, as in court, a text that could have shown us the way to more profoundly and sensually gorgeous more enlightened and enlivened times. The problem is, our age failed to truly "get" the book, and as a result, we missed an opportunity.
The script is eloquent, witty, though some of the humour needs to be tightened a little; occasionally the actors are too much of a mouthpiece for the author. There is also something too episodic in the scenes of nakedness, and I sense they could be woven into the unfolding narrative with a little more deftness of touch.
And some of it is just too forced and not yet properly melded into the flow. For example, the ‘Look at Me’ scene involving a very direct taking on of nakedness and public sexual exhibition isn’t new, lacks originality and was taken on in the seventies and many times since in theatre that has attempted to challenge. The show is much stronger when it is more subtle with its material. This is no moral judgement on the content but the questions posed are suddenly not of this piece, unnecessary to the truly impressive journey it was taking before. Basically, it stuck out like a sore thumb at the end.
The piece is simply staged, the performers hold the stage with absolute poise and self-assurance. The juxtaposition of conversational comedy with more theatrical and intense moments where the fourth wall is re-asserted works effectively and only occasionally feels clunky. With such a diversity of scene-moods, and styles of delivery and content, the piece needs to cohere more effectively and this is only partly successful. Always interesting, engaging, delightfully direct, the piece sometimes feels as if it chasing it’s own tale and tail. There’s such a lot of bold and fine writing here, I’d suggest a further look at the coherence of the production as a whole.
I loved the mix of styles and genres, undermining forms, pushing aside our expectations just as Lawrence himself did. It’s a show full of treasure – golden moments of drama, comedy gems, diamond sharp observation, but the balance of documentary-edutainment and theatre isn’t yet quite right. But there’s very much to commend it as well.