Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Apocalypse Soon-ish

Home to Hammersmith is one of my least favourite journeys on public transport. It's the 'wrong' side of London for me which on a good day never takes less than an hour, and on one particularly horrible Saturday during tubular disruptions of an epic scale, two and three-quarters.

Although I like and admire the Lyric Theatre there - an extraordinary Victorian proscenium box airlifted into a concrete shell atop one of the nastiest shopping precincts in England - it's always with a heavy heart that I dither and defer my departure from home to make for a 'just-in-time' delivery in London W6. Scene set, then, for a preview of 'A Thousand Stars Explode In The Sky', a play about the end of the world.

I was reminded of that moment in Through The Looking Glass when Alice is introduced to the Plum Pudding 'Alice, Pudding. Pudding, Alice' and then cannot bring herself to carve into something she's just met - in that my lovely theatre-blogging friends introduced me at 7.28pm to David Eldridge, one-third of the triumvirate responsible for the new playscript.

He appeared a perfectly nice chap and I now feel hobbled that I can't bring the full weight of my puny invective to bear on a play I really didn't enjoy. Not that it would be legitimate to post a proper review since it sent me to sleep within the first forty minutes.

It SEEMED to be about a disparate family, mostly of fatherless brothers - five of them ranging in age from about seventeen to just past fifty which is surely biologically impossible for the mother unless she had the first in her early teens and the redoubtable but grimly aspected Ann Mitchell certainly didn't look that type - and their need to be together, or not, on a pig farm in Yorkshire at the impending Apocalypse which is neatly scheduled for midnight in three weeks from the start of the play.

Things happen. A charming dog appears in one scene and is subsequently beaten to death with a hammer. The fiftysomething man, who suffers from colon cancer and is otherwise a bit artless, is washed standing up in a tin bath genitals and all, by his mother. I might have preferred it if she'd washed the dog onstage and he'd been beaten to death with the hammer.

Certainly washing the dog on stage would have trumped Meera Syal's nightly preparation of chips and egg in Shirley Valentine, as well as provided some leavening laughs to this rather wordy, rather morose piece. 'Pinteresque' is all very well, but not when it emulates Pinter's capacity for logorrheic tedium.

There's presumably some significance to the leitmotif of smoking - the youngest brother is learning to do it, the oldest one has cancer because of it, the middle-middle brother is concealing the fact he does from his wife, then does so openly as an act of defiance - but all the actors handle it awkwardly and the opportunity to figure out their motivations eluded me as by the end of the first half I had lost the plot and caught the tube.

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