Wednesday, 14 May 2008

"harper regan" (simon stephens)

tuesday 13th may 2008

"harper regan"

by simon stephens

harper regan ~ lesley sharp

elwood barnes (haroer's boss) ~ michael mears

tobias rich (the young man harper meets on the bridge) ~ troy glasgow

seth regan (harper's husband) ~ nick sidi

sarah regan (harper's daughter) ~ jessica raine

justin ross (the nurse who tells harper her father has died) ~ jessica harris

mickey nestor (the cokehead drunk harper glasses) ~ jack deam

james fortune (the man harper sleeps with) ~ brian capron

alison woolley (harper's mother) ~ susan brown

duncan woolley (harper's mother's second husband) ~ eamon boland

mahesh aslam (the labourer who tells harper about living with his father's death) ~ nitin kundra

director ~ marianne elliott

designer ~ hildgard bechtler

lighting designer ~ chris davey

sound designer ~ ian dickinson

fight director ~ alison de burgh

company voice work ~ jeannette nelson

at cottlesloe, national theatre

mixed jury on this one. sarah and i liked it, colin and martyn much less so

after much talk i think this play was trying to show harper's journey out from the people and events that are crashing her life through a series of fairly minor transgressions (smashing a bottle into the face of an obnoxious drunk and sleeping with a stranger) to return home with freedom and power to choose her own destiny: to try to make the life with the family she loves work somehow. in this way it is what simon stephens says he wanted to make: a story about living in the absence of the gods as opposed to euripides world where people must live through their pre-determined fates in the presence of the gods.

lots good about it. the production is strong and makes it more theatre than television. and i liked harper's stillness while the various characters in her world act at her, on her, around her. and its great that this a rite of passage / breaking free story belongs to a woman and challenges us to make a double standard judgement about her going off that we would not make for a man doing the same.

the problem is that her very attractive and mostly constant liberal humanism and tolerance (except with her mother) perhaps makes for a pretty bland character: she is everywoman /everyman as i would wish us to be, but watching this in action can be less than compelling.

altho actually i did enjoy watching her. i liked her. the big fat flaw of this play for me is the final fantasy speech her husband gets. we are really interested in harper not him, so who the fuck cares what his fantasy might be. and why are we getting fantasy at the end when we are supposedly in a world where people are the makers of their own destinies. maybe we are to think that - as throughout the story - harper is alone her understanding about this.

and the racism (anti Jews, anti polish, anti black) is gratuitous and bothersome and irritates the story. we're not given enough time or information to read anything from this and instead are just jarred out of synch with the story for a bit until we realise this has just been a tabloid headline and is irrelevant to anything else that we are going to see and hear.

liked the pre-show talk with marianne elliott and simon stephens talking to dan rebellato. remembered moments are:

+ the play ends with a meal because i think prepoaring a meal is an intrinsically optimistic act ... i think this is a bleak play with an optimistic heart, where my previous plays have often been optimistic plays with bleak hearts (simon stephens)

+ the play is not like a male orgasm with a race along one line to the big bang climax, but rather a female orgasm with lots of ripplings out from the centre and multiple climaxes

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