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Monday 11 February 2013

A Private View: Dissecting The Disquiet Of The Dissidents @ Nightingale Theatre Brighton

If you have ever wondered what the work of playwright turned national Czech leader Vaclav Havel was like, then the production of A Private View, directed by Sylvia Vickers, at the (wonderful) Nightingale Theatre (8th-10th February 2012) was the place to be.



The play itself is both very, very funny and incredibly timeless, an amazing critique of materialism and the shallow 'Mrs Dalloway"'world of the new Bourgeoisie. 

It is a critique as relevant in our time and country as in Havel's.

Recently, at my son's school, I had arrived a little early to collect him and so sat listening to two other 'early' parents having a long and varied conversation about sun dried tomatoes. 

"OHH!" said one. "Were they YOUR tomatoes we had with our lunch the other day, they were JUST like the real thing!"
 
"OH YESSS!" said the other. "I learnt how to do them in Sicily, JUST LIKE the Sicilians do, but I put MINE in the oven, out there they dry them in the sun you know, we stay at our friends cottage it"s wonderful, there is no heating and it"s so very run down we love it !!!" 

I wonder if the Sicilian peasants have such a romantic view of poverty?

Michael (Casper Jones) and Vera (Dani Carbery) are a couple obsessed with their flat, their possessions, their cooking, the quality of their whisky, America, and their friends" lives. They are sort of 'Hello' magazine reincarnated as human beings. 


They bombard their visitor Ferdinand (Karl Kennedy-Williams) with this shallow pointless chatter as soon as he arrives, asking him how much he likes various objects and then self-congratulating themselves on the quality of their own décor.  

He is the kind of guy who buys art to fit his ideal alcove, rather than making an alcove to fit his art. 

Tellingly, Ferdinand is a writer turned brewery worker, while Michael works in an office. 

The couple are shocked at Ferdinand's choice of work, asking him question after question that he rarely gets a chance to answer without being forced to eat something or have another drink before he can speak. 

They do not understand the importance of honest toil; they are lost souls adrift in plenty.

In the play Havel makes a strong use of repetition to emphasise the ever-decreasing circles of the trivial life. 

This is picked up well in the direction of the play with the actors taking up the same pose for each level of repletion reinforcing the mildly insane undertones of the couple"s new life. 

At one point Michael exposes his wife to Ferdinand to show him how sexy she is, at this point it becomes obvious that she is nothing more than an object in his collection. He looks after her well, but then he looks after all his objects well too.

It is no surprise that Michael objectifies his wife, this a play about the objectification of existence itself. 

They are anti-existentialists – taking more and more meaning out of life with each breath they take

.

When their own meaningless 'being' bores even themselves then they start to objectify their friends. Like characters in a play they are given roles to play and goral to match.

They are the funniest and most terrifying couple at one and the same time.

The acting in this production by new Brighton Production company Oscillate Wildly (OW) was very powerful indeed, nicely understated by 'Ferdinand', relentless by "Michael" and wonderfully pregnant with lust for the object by "Vera".

The production company are also worth a mention and say of themselves "Oscillate Wildly Productions is a brand new theatre company based in Brighton/Hove. 

"The idea behind forming the company was to give greater opportunity to those who have either studied in theatre and who have found themselves working in other areas during the day, or those who have a real passion for all aspects of the theatre. 

"It is a chance to really get involved with developing and creating all types of theatrical experiences. 

"When Casper Jones first put an advert in the papers, perhaps he shouldn't have been surprised at the number of people who contacted him who wanted to be involved with all areas of running the initial show; through giving up their spare time to help in any way they could. This is the kind of ethos that really encouraged Casper to pursue the idea."

Such a vibrant company would seem to fit in with the vital creative project that is the Nightingale Theatre, situated just above the Grand Central Bar near the station this is one of the best little theatres in the country. I suggest you check out there website as soon as you can. 

In all I have seen it said that this play is an attack on the desensitising nature of Soviet communism. It is not.  Instead it is a witty and cunning attack on what followed its downfall. 

It was so good I felt bereft when it ended!



by: Howard Young (Arts Editor)


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