Saturday, 18 April 2009
A strange afternoon at the National. Everybody seemed bored, disinterested, not really wanting to there, fidgety and half asleep ... and the audience weren't much better!!!
Mrs Affleck isn't terrible, but it seems to have been doomed from early on in its run by poor reviews and indifferent box office and now, down to its dregs, it feels like the show is just serving time; it's casts' bags are packed in the hall and they are waiting to return to more lucrative TV deals or happy ensembles on the larger National stages.
Maybe a sunny Saturday afternoon in Spring is not the ideal time to meditate on our dark self truths and inability to love where we should; but this was the unhappy, but inescapable, situation that both cast and audience found themselves caught in.
So the play. Samuel Adamson has adapted Henrick Ibsen's Little Eyolf written in the 1890s, and re set it on the North Kent coast in 1955. The transportation only really serves to demonstrate his cleverness as a researcher and a beachcomber of parallels. Disabled Oliver's friend, George, has recently arrived on Windrush. Claire Skinner's Rita Affleck demonstrates all the frustration of a woman waiting for the sexual liberation of the sixties. Whilst she's a decade early her haunted husband Alfred, played with admirable angst by Angus Wight, unable to shake off the nightmare images of Belsen cannot escape the past. His fear underscored by the threatening, alluring Flea (who replaces the rat wife of the original play) dressed as a leather clad rocker in an Elvis quiff. An all too obvious cliche for the shock of the new.
The real problem is that Little Eyolf is a much bigger play - dealing with guilt, recrimination and the possibility for redemption and resurrection in the face of a seemingly malevolent God. A rainy afternoon on the shingle at Herne Bay, with the Goon Show playing tinnily in the background, just doesn't support the crashing avalanches of the original.