Like all Gaul I am divided. I’m going to deal with the first part of this day before I head for home by catching up with what has gone before…I’m a couple of plays behind. I left off at The Master Builder on Thursday night. I was running late for the next discussion period so I just said it was exciting and left.
My first main stage play was my adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. I cut two characters and transferred it to present-day Saskatchewan, the present at that time being 1963; it was the December production at the Manitoba Theater Centre (now Royal). Later I was invited to do it again at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto (1970), and tinkered with it, just a bit. The protagonist didn’t realize until opening night what a benighted person Dr. Stockman is and blamed me for Ibsen’s portrayal. It was subtle. Ibsen’s heroes don’t always know what they’re doing, witness The Master Builder.
Fear and guilt and greed drive poor Halvard Solness, played forcefully, not to say pigheadedly, by Ralph Fiennes. This is not to suggest that he is wrong or a bad actor. He is wonderful, forceful, manipulative and naïve, in varying degrees. Ibsen’s men are sooo maddening, to me, anyway. Spoiled and indulged by their women, they carry on, blindly rushing to disaster. The directing revealed this, aided by effective lighting. We saw a preview and I had the impression during the opening scenes that the pauses were not always directed or intentional but just a little insecure. I didn’t mind. It was, as I said, an exciting evening and it was good to see Fiennes with his nose intact.
Caryl Churchill has returned to the Royal Court with a new play, Escaped Alone, directed by James Macdonald. It’s a short play (one hour) but intense, though seemingly very relaxed and banal, like the three friends chatting in a garden where they are joined by a neighbouring acquaintance. Three of these middle-aged women, each with her own baggage, talk at each other though they know each other very well, or perhaps because they know each other very well, employing a deceptive shorthand and revealing more to their gate-crashing guest than they realize. Each in turn is given a focused, dim light and a full monologue as she contemplates her inner self/fears.
The same lighting could have been focused on the interloper as she goes on on a grander scale about the ridiculous horrors of the world today. instead, when it’s her turn, and she gets several of them (I didn’t count), the lights go out, the stage is framed in red lights and then the smaller frame of the garden set, now dark and invisible, is also outlined in the tiny zigzag lights and she appears in a spotlight to tell her tale of absurd doom. The only thing the lighting change added was a few extra moments to a short script.
I didn’t mind it being short. It made its point and offered some character revelations. Since no one changed or developed or learned anything, it didn’t have to be longer.
So now it’s Saturday morning and I am about to hurl my body through time and space and return to Toronto.