the curate's egg

I was in Stratford for two days to see a couple of plays and visit a dear writer friend. First the plays:

The Breathing Hole by Colleen Murphy, commissioned by The Stratford Festival, is a world premiere this summer in the Studio Theatre. Only in Stratford can a new play like this be presented - with a cast of 23 - twice that, really, because they all double. (The one single, young one is compensated for by two triples.)   The production values are dazzling, especially the two huge polar bear puppets, ingeniously designed. (Think War Horse.) And you can't fault the story, an epic ranging in time from May, 1534 to December, 2033.  

Well, here comes the Curates's Egg: the first act is terrific, fascinating and scary, with the very real threats of death by starvation, cold, cannibalism - or polar bears.  There is even some humour in it (rare for Murphy) in the interaction between the indigenous people and the stiff-necked English explorers.  Although lavishly staged and skipping forward in time, with all new characters (doubles) except the poor old bear, the worse for wear, the second act is not so good. It's a heavy-duty message play and we, at least my companion and I, felt beaten over the heads with it, several times. 

We experienced the second Curate's Egg the next day with a very good production of Timon of Athens, starring Joe Zeigler.  The play is not a bundle of laughs but the first act is lively and interesting as it presents all the fawning, opportunistic, sycophantic characters who will renege on their debts and friendship with trusting, generous Timon.  In modern dress, with computers and cell phones and spread sheets, the play presents a story as old as time and just as current. But the second act is heavy-duty and hits us over the head.  

Are you all old enough to remember what a curate's egg is?  It's good in parts. I learned it from a friend from Liverpool and my companion knew it, too, also from a Liverpudlian. I looked it up to see if it originated in Liverpool but its provenance was broader than that. I'll let you google it; there's a Punch cartoon involved that I can't reproduce and I have other things to write about. I'm behind as it is.